Hazard Assessment and Primary Prevention
CPWR has developed proven guidance for major hazards encountered in construction:
Fall Prevention and Protection
Falls from heights kill more construction workers of all ages than any other work-related injury. All workers need protection from falls, but the likelihood of death or disability from a fall increases with age. Older workers are also more likely to experience both hearing loss and diminished balance, contributing to falls. CPWR, OSHA and NIOSH lead the Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction, which features the annual Safety Stand-Down and offers a wide range of resources for training and planning.
For extensive planning and training resources, visit:
Health and Wellness Promotion
All workers, but particularly older workers, benefit from routine health care, updated vaccinations (especially for tetanus, influenza and COVID-19), health screenings, and managing chronic conditions. Normal aging affects vision, and older workers are more likely to develop a variety of treatable eye conditions, so eye examinations become more important. If workers require prescription lenses, arrange to have safety glasses that offer the necessary correction.
Workers also need to know about any employer assistance program (EAP) benefits, free screenings happening through the community or local union, vaccination drives, and other opportunities to look out for their health.
Heat Illness Prevention
Construction workers have the highest number of heat stroke fatalities of any industry in the U.S., and deaths are increasing as climate change raises average temperatures globally and produces more heat waves that are also more severe. Older workers are among the groups at higher risk from these changes. The normal aging process reduces a person’s ability to regulate heat, and older workers are more likely to have additional conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, that further increase risk.
Heat illness prevention programs should be in place that include not only water, rest and shade, but also acclimatization periods so workers can gradually increase activity over the course of a week (“working into the job”) and have increased rest breaks in cool areas when necessary. California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington already have regulations or laws requiring employers to address heat illness prevention; Maryland and other states are following, and OSHA is developing a federal standard.
For more information on developing a heat-illness prevention program and protecting and training workers, visit:
Adequate lighting is always necessary for construction tasks and becomes more important as workers age, when adjusting to low light becomes more difficult. Research on improving lighting in mining has shown reduction in injuries, and findings like these may be useful in construction.
For more on NIOSH mining research, visit:
- NIOSH Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Cap Lamp Improves Illumination and Decreases Injury Risk for Underground Miners
- The Saturn LED Area Light Provides Improved Illumination for Greater Roof Bolter Safety
Manual Materials Handling
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from excessive lifting, bending, stooping, and other construction-related activities cause more premature disability in the industry than any other health condition. In 2017, the rate of MSDs in construction was about 9% higher than for all industries combined.
Planning ahead, starting as early as the bid stage of a project, is critical to avoiding MSDs. Delivering and storing materials close to where they will be needed, making sure lifting equipment is available, and implementing lift limits can be key elements of preventive solutions. CPWR’s Best Built Plans Program (http://bestbuiltplans.org/) offers extensive resources for preventing strain and sprain injuries from manual materials handling.
- Best Built Plans Contractor Planning Tool
- Best Built Plans Comprehensive Training Program
- Lift Coach microgames for smart phones (Plan Your Lift & Plan Your Route)
- CPWR Construction Ergonomics Checklist
- NIOSH Simple Solutions Ergonomics for Construction Workers
Noise & Hearing Loss
Noise is a constant hazard on construction sites. Workers often develop noise-induced hearing loss, which gets worse as they age. Exposure to certain solvents and other chemicals can also contribute to hearing loss. Engineering designs that reduce equipment noise, noise reduction in heavy equipment cabs, and effective hearing conservation programs are important to protecting workers from noise. Hearing protection is helpful only if workers wear it, so comfort and communication need to be taken into account.
For more information on construction noise and hearing loss, visit:
High-performing organizations improve worker safety and health while promoting productivity through intentional leadership that engages workers. CPWR has identified critical areas for improving safety climate, with supervisors being key to implementing steps that prioritize safety.
The following resources can help employers evaluate and improve their safety climate and build better crew leaders.
- CPWR The Safety Climate – Safety Management Information System
- CPWR Foundations for Safety Leadership
Site Management & Housekeeping
Basic housekeeping must be part of an organized construction site to reduce slips/trips/falls and promote productivity for all workers.
- Research Projects
- Data Center
- Research to Practice (r2p)
- r2p Library
- r2p Partnerships
- Infrastructure Resources
- Training and Awareness Programs from Research
- Management Resources from Research
- Hazard-Specific Resources & Training Tools
- Liberty Mutual Safety Innovation Award