Personal safety is of utmost importance at any construction site. Respiratory hazards, hearing hazards and falling hazards are the common safety risks involved with workers at construction sites. K Nandakumar explains more on these safety risks and solutions offered by 3M India.
Every time you set foot on a new construction or renovation site, you take stock of the different risks and dangers to avoid. You spot the small pieces of concrete flying up into the air as someone drills into ground. You notice sharp power tools slicing through slabs of rock and quartz. You see a massive cement mixer kicking up dust as it crushes and mixes its heavy concoction. But what about the dangers you can't see? Can you detect the fumes, smoke and dust that rush through your respiratory system and cling dangerously to your lungs? Or the ambient noise that can impact your hearing permanently? Or the danger of falling from a height?
Respiratory hazards can exist in various forms at general industry and construction worksites. These hazards can be because of gases, vapours, dusts, mists, fumes, smoke, sprays, and fog. Depending on exposure and substances, it can make you sick or may even be fatal. Certain respiratory hazards act quickly, like carbon monoxide - an invisible, odourless gas - which can make you unconscious or kill you in minutes. Other respiratory hazards can take years to make you sick, like crystalline silica which can cause irreversible lung damage.
At the construction sites, the single biggest respiratory hazard is crystalline silica in the air which can have serious long-term impact on your lungs. As a basic component of soil, sand and rock, silica is one of the most widespread minerals on earth. It is most commonly found in quartz, which in turn is used in products like concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, etc. Though it exists in many forms, it becomes crystalline and airborne when exposed to high heat or intense pressure like abrasive cutting, crushing and sawing.
How to protect yourself?: Respiratory protection must be selected based on the hazard you will be exposed to on the job. Not every respirator will protect you against every hazard, so it is important you select the right one. Our team can assist you with a walk-in survey to identify the hazards in your workplace. Once you have a sense of your exposure level, you can choose the right product from 3M's full range of respiratory protection products such as light weight disposable respirator, half-face respirator, full-face protection or heavy-duty powered head top, depending on the risk level. All 3M respiratory protection products use advanced electrostatic media technology to let you breathe comfortably while keeping dangerous dust and particles out of your lungs.
Noise and hearing loss remain major concerns for the construction workforce, project owners and managers. Regular exposure to high noise levels can lead to tinnitus and hearing loss, although it may take many years for the symptoms to become apparent. This invisible health issue is debilitating and can take years to reach the point where action is taken, at which stage it is often too late to halt the damage, leaving that individual with a poorer quality of life and only able to protect what little hearing they have left. Hearing damage is irreversible and preventable, so adopting practical and cost-effective methods of protection is imperative. The risk should be assessed and controlled. Where the noise has already been reduced by other controls, but an acceptable level has still not been reached, hearing protection must be used.
How to protect yourself?: The right fit makes a difference which is why hearing protection requires comfortable solutions. When it comes to protecting workers' hearing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 3M E-A-RfitTM dual-ear validation system generates a Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) in under five seconds for both ears, taking into account the seven standard measured testing frequencies. This measures how well 3M's most earplugs and earmuffs perform, deliver a quantitative measurement of personal noise reduction for each employee and can help identify if the employee has adequate protection. This assessment can then be used to find the perfect hearing protection for yourself and your employees from 3M's entire range of hearing protection products.
Fall protection hazards
Another leading cause of death at construction sites has been 'Falls' and 'Struck by Object'. People are not designed to work at height: People don't have a natural connection point to tie off to, which is why they wear a fall protection harness-to provide a connection point and keep them at height.
Tools, as well, are not designed to be used at height: Tools also lack a connection point to tie off to, but are allowed to fall with the hope that secondary safety measures-hard hats and debris nets-will prevent injury or damage. Incidents and accidents proving the damage potential have made the news for over a century. With the prevalence of these injuries, companies like 3M have been changing how they view and safeguard against falls for both workers and equipment.
How to protect yourself?: The first and foremost step you need to take is to use appropriate and good quality Fall Protection gear. 'Fall Protection' refers to anything that can fall, whether it is a person, debris, tool or piece of equipment. For all objects at height-including humans-it is not about catching the object (a reactive action), it is about preventing things from falling (a preventative measure). 3M Personal Safety Division offers its customers access to the quality products, people and service of the 3M™ DBI-SALA® and 3M™ Protecta®Fall Protection brands.
3M Fall Protection also offers training and services to help all workers at height and those who employ them understand that an effective fall protection program requires more than selecting the right equipment; it also requires certified fall protection training by professional instructors. We at 3M can provide you with insight from our experience so you can help elevate your employees' safety and comfort
to new heights.
AUDHYOGIK SURAKSHA RATH
3M India's efforts to drive safety at workplace took a bigger step in 2017 when the company launched the Audhyogik Suraksha Rath (ASR), a mobile safety truck, in collaboration with DGFASLI, Ministry of Labour, Government of India. The objective of this initiative is to enhance awareness about workplace safety. Through this effort, two ASR trucks aim to reach out to all the industrial clusters in India and provide an experiential learning about workplace safety and personal protective equipment (PPE). ASR has safety equipment relating to respiratory protection; hearing, eye and head protection; fall protection; and body protection, to name a few. It also has facility to demonstrate confined space entry system, fit testing of respirators and hearing protectors. Since the day of launch in September 2017 by Union Minister Santosh Gangwar, ASR has travelled more than 10,000 km, covered more than 370 industries, and hosted approximately 36,500 personnel onboard. Currently, ASRs are travelling in Punjab and Maharashtra.
The author is Division Manager, Personal Safety Division, 3M India.