Planning ahead for industrial hygiene risks within the initial project plan can help mitigate future problems down the road.
Keeping workers safe is the most important element of any construction project, and the potential dangers of ignoring construction site hazards far outweigh the costs associated with mitigating.
"Yet planning for hazardous contaminants doesn't always get incorporated into the initial project plan. It's a very important value-added element," says Eric Wenger, industrial hygienist for Burns & McDonnell.
Some hazards, such as asbestos and mold, may seem more obvious or require little investigation to discover. However, without proper investigation they could be overlooked, and other less obvious contaminants, such as silica dust, metal fumes from welding, lead paint and noise, must be considered as well. All of these pollutants pose serious health risks and require planning to keep safety and financial burdens in check.
"If any of these pollutants are not considered until after they are discovered during construction, significant health damage might already have occurred, and mitigating those risks for future work could be costly," Wenger says.
In fact, some of these government-regulated contaminants have mandated protocols attached to them, as in the case of asbestos. If asbestos is discovered, all demolition work must stop during a required 10-day waiting period and the state must be notified.
For hexavalent chromium, produced from certain spray-paint operations or from welding/cutting high chromium metals like stainless steel, engineering controls and, possibly, respiratory protection are required. Equipment, special teams and other resources to address these issues and keep workers safe can take weeks to procure. That could translate to lost production and wasted funds.
"The project management team needs to assess potential industrial hygiene hazards and develop an assessment and protection plan for workers. It's always better to identify potential health and environmental hazards prior to the start of work than to risk discovery of liabilities mid-project, causing work stoppage," Wenger says.
For more information, contact Eric Wenger, CIH, LEED AP, 816-822-3894.