White Card Update: Chemical Hazard Safety in Construction

Construction workers can be exposed to a number of chemical hazards on a job site. Chemicals can be present in dust, fumes, liquids, solids, mists, vapours or gases of products used at a site or released during a construction job. Asbestos, silica, lead, carbon monoxide, spray paint, solvents and welding fumes are examples of such hazards; they can be absorbed by touch, inhaled or ingested which is why each hazard needs to be identified and assessed to determine the risks to workers.

Many substances encountered in construction work have the potential to harm the skin. For example

  • Mineral oil or pitch may cause skin cancers with prolonged contact.
  • Disinfectant, bleaches, solvents, oils, acids and alkalis may cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people.
  • Epoxy resins, acrylic resins, formaldehyde,nickel, cobalt, chrome, natural gums andvegetation, including timber may cause allergic reactions in addition to other long term negative effects.

On the construction site, if skin contact with these substances is inevitable, workers need to utilise suitable protective clothing and gloves if necessary, whatever is needed to act as a barrier to the chemical and the skin. It is also important that hands are washed after work, remember that good skin care is essential to prevent dermatitis. Also in construction, solvents should not be used to clean the hands or any other body parts.

It is important to remember that PPE is the last possible option for managing a hazard and PPE should only be considered if other control measures in the hierarchy of control cannot be implemented because PPE only protects the wearer and does not control the risk at the source.

Chemical burns are a hazard that can occur in a number of industries and affect a number of workers. That is why it is critical that workers be trained on the correct procedure for handling chemicals as well as what to do in the case of an incident. Training on how to work safely with chemicals in order to avoid burns should be provided for all workers, not only those directly in contact with chemicals but all those on site.

In addition to site specific safety training based on workers duties and the specific hazards present on a construction site, it is also important that workers undergo general construction safety training to familiarise them with all of the hazards on the construction site, including in brief dealing with chemical hazards. Becoming familiar with the risks is the first step in ensuring safety, site specific as well as general construction safety training will assist workers with this.

The law requires any worker in the construction industry to be in possession of their White Card, luckily this certificate is easy to obtain and most importantly it equips workers with the knowledge of how to stay safe while engaging in construction activities on a hazardous building site.

For everything you need to know about the White Card or what to expect from work on a construction site visit www.whitecardonline.com.au



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