Prevention Tactics Aim to Reduce Health Risks in Construction

January 29, 2013 - All construction workers face some level of risk while on the job, but three areas are associated with the most-pressing occupational health hazards in the construction industry: masonry, asphalt roofing and welding.

Deborah Young-Corbett addresses these concerns in an article recently accepted by the Journal of Civil Engineering and Management. To reduce health risks to construction workers, Young-Corbett, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and member of the university's Myers-Lawson School of Construction, identified gaps and problems in today’s construction practices.

As a result, Young-Corbett is working in a new field of engineering known as Prevention through Design or PtD, which aims to prevent occupational health hazards by "designing out" risks and eliminating the need to control them. The approach involves the design of tools, equipment, systems, work processes and facilities to reduce hazards.

Young-Corbett has identified strategies to improve the industry’s health records. For example, using wet tools in masonry could alleviate health risks tied to the silica dust produced when sawing. Improvements in roofing would reduce workers’ exposure to asphalt fumes. Welding solutions are aimed at controlling smoke levels.

Designs for better tools or materials are still needed, Young-Corbett said, but in other cases, "effective tools exist but are not widely adopted within the industry…”

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