In addition to the known hazards of construction work, individuals in the industry must also protect themselves from hidden dangers, such as lead paint and asbestos. Because the use of lead and asbestos was prohibited in most building materials in 1978, it is not likely that these harmful materials are used in the construction of newer homes. However, asbestos and lead paint are commonly detected in older homes, especially those built before 1978.
If you or a family member has been injured in a workplace accident, you should speak to an attorney immediately. Emroch & Kilduff’s work related injury attorneys in Virginia specialize in helping injured workers obtain as much compensation as possible for workplace accidents.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falling from ladders is the leading cause of fatalities and injuries in the construction industry. There are a variety of safety tips for using a ladder, whether it is an extension, step, combination, or straight ladder.
Some safety tips include:
- Reading the labels on the ladder;
- Watching for electrical lines and other hazards;
- Keeping three extremities in contact with the ladder;
- Using the ladder for its designed purposes;
- Inspecting the ladder for damage; and
- Using ladders on the ground or floor only, but only if the ground or floor is stable and entirely clear of obstacles.
Before you start a renovation, make sure you have the proper tools to safely work with electricity. You should understand how to turn the flow of electricity off to the circuit you are working on. If you work for an electrical company, your employer should provide adequate safety equipment necessary for protecting yourself. Proper safety equipment includes insulated tools, hard hats, warning signs, and other safety equipment. When working on a project, make sure you have the proper signs or safety materials to prevent another from turning the electricity on.
Lead paint abatement involves techniques designed to permanently eliminate lead-based paint hazards. Those working for lead paint abatement companies must pass a board-approved training program. Homeowner’s planning to renovate an older home should contact a company that does lead paint abatement to ensure all potentially hazardous materials are removed from the home.
For smaller renovation projects, homeowners should take extra safety precautions. For example, you should always wear gloves, keep your skin covered, and use a respirator while removing lead paint or suspected lead-based paint.
Lead Paint Safety Tips
When working with lead paint or suspected lead-based paint, use these safety tips to minimize your exposure to lead:
- Always use a respirator approved for lead paint dust.
- Keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep lead paint dust as low as possible. As you sand or otherwise create dust, spray the dust to moisten it and avoid inhalation.
- While you can use all-purpose cleaning products to remove lead paint debris, it is better to use a cleaner specifically intended for cleaning up lead dust.
- Clean rakes, shovels, hammers, screwdrivers, and any other tools that come in contact with lead paint dust. You should clean any tools you use at the end of every day to get rid of any paint dust.
- Anyone who is not working on the construction project should remain from the vicinity, especially children and pregnant women.
- Change your clothes before you leave the work area. Wash work clothing separately from other laundry, including your non-work clothing. Leave shoes outside until you can clean them.
- Do not smoke, eat, or drink in the work area as lead dust could get into your food and in your lungs.
- Dispose of water used for washing tools and other contaminated debris pursuant to Virginia regulations.
Since you can breathe in lead particles in the air, it is critically important to use a respirator when working with lead-based paint, especially when sanding the paint to remove it. Once your body absorbs lead, it enters the bloodstream and eventually moves to the bones, where it stays for a lifetime. Because our bodies do not naturally produce lead, we are unable to properly filter it. If the body absorbs high amounts of lead, the lead may be deposited and stored in soft tissues, affecting and damaging the organs.
Other Dangers of Renovation and Construction Work
In addition to lead-based paint, ladders, and electrical dangers associated with construction and renovation, other potential hazards include:
- Solvents and paint strippers used to dissolve paint often contain methylene chloride. When you inhale solvent fumes or absorb it through your skin, the body converts some of the chemical into carbon monoxide. You could suffer from shortness of breath, dizziness, or a heart attack if you absorb large amounts of methylene chloride.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning might not be an apparent danger when remodeling a house. However, if you use anything that burns fuel, such as a propane heater, to heat the home when you are remodeling, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. You should always ensure the heater is placed in an area with adequate ventilation.
- Generators also release carbon monoxide. Always keep generators outside while they are running. Also, make sure the generator is not under an open window because the toxic fumes could potentially be swept into the home.
- Chemical exposure can lead to chemical poisoning, so always be sure to follow the product’s safety instructions to protect yourself from unnecessary exposure. Wear gloves and goggles, maintain proper ventilation, and use a respirator if needed.
Stay Safe During Your Project!
We hope the above helps to keep you safe whether you’re working to improve your home or taking on your job duties—and that the outcome looks and works as well as you hoped! If you have suffered an injury at your workplace, not hesitate to contact us for a consultation with a work accident & injury lawyer.