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Encourage Health and Safety On and Off the Job

Longer days and warmer weather means projects are once again running at full capacity across the United States and Canada, which is welcome news for LIUNA members and signatory contractors. Yet busy sites and long hours also bring increased risk for hazards on the job. On the heels of Workers’ Memorial Day in the U.S. and Canada’s National Day of Mourning, we are reminded of the importance of furthering health and safety for all workers. In this edition of Lifelines, we take a closer look at a number of issues that can be particularly acute when Laborers are working outside.

The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America has long recognized that the sun is one of the greatest risks Laborers face when working outdoors. In years past, the Fund has committed to raising awareness about skin cancer by providing educational materials and products such as sunscreen, lip balm and neck flaps to LIUNA Locals and affiliates across the U.S. and Canada. This year, the Fund is proud to expand its awareness campaign to include heat stress. The updated program, Sun Sense Plus 2015, will call attention to the dangers of heat stress through new publications and products. Cooling cloths, which can be wrapped around the head or neck to help keep Laborers from overheating on the job, are now available as part of this invaluable program.

Sun and heat exposure aren’t the only outdoor risks that LIUNA members need to be aware of. Warmer weather also means it’s tick season, and in many parts of the country, that means increased risk for a variety of tick-borne illnesses. In addition to Lyme disease, we take a look at several other illnesses that ticks transmit, provide tips on the best ways to protect yourself and list warning signs to watch for.

We also want to call attention to what continues to be the largest source of serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. In 2013, falls killed 295 construction workers and injured over 20,000 more. This May, OSHA, NIOSH and the CPWR – the Center for Construction Research and Training – are once again collaborating on the second annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The goal of this voluntary event, which takes place this year from May 4th through May 15th, is to get employers and employees talking about fall hazards and fall prevention. If you want to participate in the Stand-Down but aren’t sure how, the article in this issue includes several suggestions to get you started.

The LHSFNA’s mission to protect LIUNA members also includes encouraging Laborers to be proactive about their health and safety outside of work. This includes medical screenings such as the colonoscopy, which many people delay because of anxiety about the steps leading up to the exam. Another topic of interest this month is heart attacks. In addition to dispelling the myth that women don’t have heart attacks, we discuss the warning signs of this common health concern and how they differ between men and women.

We also explore an issue that’s often controversial but doesn’t have to be – fracking. Early fracking has been largely unregulated, leading to concerns about environmental damage and hazards to public health. But as the industry continues to mature, new ideas have emerged about how drilling can be done responsibly. The article in this month’s issue begins a series that will examine how responsible drilling measures can keep fracking safe for both the public and the environment while still providing benefits to all parties involved.

As temperatures rise and workloads increase this spring and summer, remember that the staff here at the LHSFNA is always available to help keep members safe and sites running smoothly. We’d like to wish all of our LIUNA members and signatory contractors a healthy, safe and productive summer.

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