Are you clued up enough on construction worker health?
For those individuals who work in the construction industry, the daily grind can be challenging on a number of fronts, including staying injury-free.
While the majority of construction companies practice safe initiatives on a regular basis, some others are not as strict when it comes to making sure their employees are protected onsite. As a result, injuries from the smallest to the most critical do happen at times.
According to OSHA and information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (for 2013); just over 20 percent of the more than 4,000 worker fatalities in private industry from two years ago, ended up being construction-related.
Among the top causes for such construction deaths were falls, being hit by an object, electrocution, and being trapped in/between objects. Those four causes of death accounted for more than half (58 percent) of construction worker fatalities that year.
Right Coverage is a Necessity
With that in mind, construction workers and those they work for need to make sure health insurance coverage is not an afterthought.
Yes, workers compensation certainly comes into play here, but those running construction sites and those construction workers who are considered independent contractors need to make sure they have affordable health care insurance in place.
This is not only important should they be injured on the job, but also so that they can receive regular preventative visits with their doctor to stay in good shape for the challenging work many of them do.
Some construction companies and/or independent contractors have not hesitated to make sure they have the right healthcare insurance in place.
According to a 2013 study from McGraw-Hill Construction related to safety management for the construction sector, contractors noted large use of safety practices, however totally-inclusive programs were not yet falling into place when it came to smaller-sized firms.
The report detailed that 92 percent of firms employing more than 500 employees claimed having fully inclusive and largely observed safety programs in place; smaller companies, however, only had some 48 percent noting the same.
For those running construction sites and/or those working there, you can keep your injury rates down and your healthcare insurance coverage rates at a minimum by practicing safe tactics from day one.
The report noted the top three practices that ultimately prove the most effective in contributing to safety are:
- Putting together a site-specific health and safety plan for everyone involved in the construction site operations;
- Reviewing possible site safety hazards prior to any construction kicking off;
- Making sure authorized safety personnel are in place prior to construction starting, making sure everyone knows their roles.
With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in place, there opportunities for construction firms and their employees to make sure they have affordable and sound healthcare insurance in place.
When they do that, they’re building better opportunities and futures for everyone involved in the construction industry.
Why engineers must always consider human-induced vibration
Human induced vibration, or more accurately vibrations caused by human footfall, often conjures images of Millennium Bridge-style swaying or collapsing buildings.
But in reality, the ‘damage’ caused by human-induced vibrations is less likely to ruin a structure and more likely to cause discomfort in people. Though not as dramatic as a structural failure, any good engineer wants to make sure the people using their structures, be it bridges or buildings or anything in between, can do so safely and comfortably. This is why human-induced vibration must be considered within the design process.
Resonance v Impulse
There are two ways that human-induced vibrations affect structures: resonant, and impulse or transient response. Put simply, resonance occurs when Object A vibrates at the same natural frequency as Object B.
Object B resonates and begins to vibrate too. Think singing to break a wine glass! Although the person singing isn’t touching the glass, the vibrations of their voice are resonating with the glass’s natural frequency, causing this vibration to get stronger and stronger and eventually, break the glass. In the case of a structure, resonance occurs when the pedestrian’s feet land in time with the vibration.
On the other hand, impulse or transient vibration responses can be a problem on structures where its natural frequencies are too high for resonance to occur, such as where the structure is light or stiff. Here the discomfort is caused by the initial “bounce” of the structure caused by the footstep and is a concern on light or stiff structures.
Engineers must, of course, design to reduce the vibration effects caused by either impulse or resonance.
Potential impacts from human induced vibration
Human induced vibration can lead to a number of effects upon the structure and its users. These include:
- Interfering with sensitive equipment Depending on the building’s purpose, what it houses can be affected by the vibrations of people using the building. Universities and laboratories, for example, may have sensitive equipment whose accuracy and performance could be damaged by vibrations. Even in ordinary offices the footfall vibration can wobble computer screens, upsetting the workers.
- Swaying bridges One of the most famous examples of human-induced resonance impacting a structure occurred with the Millennium Bridge. As people walked across the bridge, the footsteps caused the bridge to sway, and everybody had to walk in time with the sway because it was difficult not to. Thankfully, this feedback can only occur with horizontal vibrations so building floors are safe from it, but footbridges need careful checking to prevent it.
- Human discomfort According to research, vibrations in buildings and structures can cause depression and even motion sickness in inhabitants. Tall buildings sway in the wind and footsteps can be felt, even subconsciously by the occupants. It has been argued that modern efficient designs featuring thinner floor slabs and wider spacing in column design mean that these new builds are not as effective at dampening vibrations as older buildings are.
- Jeopardising structural integrity The build-up of constant vibrations on a structure can, eventually, lead to structural integrity being compromised. A worse-case scenario would be the complete collapse of the structure and is the reason some bridges insist that marching troops break step before crossing. Crowds jumping in time to music or in response to a goal in a stadium are also dynamic loads that might damage an under-designed structure.
How to avoid it
As mentioned, modern designs that favour thinner slabs and wider column spacing are particularly susceptible to all forms of vibration, human-induced or otherwise, but short spans can also suffer due to their low mass. Using sophisticated structural engineering software is an effective method for engineers to test for and mitigate footfall and other vibrations at the design stage.