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Construction employers and construction special trade contractors who work on construction projects (construction, alteration, and/or repair) are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to recognize, reduce, and eliminate construction-related hazards. The OSHA standard is designed to protect construction workers who engage in activities that may expose them to serious hazards including, noise, vibration, thermal exposures such as heat stress, unguarded machinery, organic solvents, toxic gases and vapors, biological hazards, heavy metals, and various other skin, eye, and respiratory irritants.

RHP’s Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) and Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs) work with construction employers and specialty contractors to develop and/or update existing construction safety plans to keep employers in compliance with regulatory guidelines and reduce the risk of injury, work stoppage, or substantial fines. A comprehensive safety plan can minimize liability, reduce operational costs, and protect an employer’s reputation.

Industrial Hygiene Exposure Assessments

Through area and worker sampling, RHP’s employee exposure assessments help you anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control workplace exposures. RHP’s team of industrial hygienists are skilled at conducting risk assessments related to thermal exposure and heat stress, welding operations, chemicals, particulates, noise, and ergonomics. An exposure assessment identifies and characterizes workplace exposures by sorting workers according to similar exposure groups (SEGs), developing estimates of exposures for exposure-response predictions, and evaluating the significance of exposures and effectiveness of intervention strategies.

Upon review of workplace processes and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to identify exposure risks based on key variables (chemicals used, effectiveness of current controls, etc.), RHP professionals work with you to develop and implement cost-effective solutions.

RHP’s employee exposure assessments of fume exposures, such as the generation during welding, cutting, and brazing work, quantify as worker exposures. The employee exposure assessment provides data to ensure that employers can adequately protect their workforce. In the circumstance where all controls are exhausted, employees may use exposure assessment data to appropriately assign proper personal protection equipment (PPE). Additionally, RHP is able to perform fume extraction efficiency testing which includes evaluation of capture efficiency at an emissions source, measurement of operating airflow, and evaluation of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) filtration.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) / Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

Managing the source of air pollutants that construction workers may be exposed to during new construction or renovations can be alleviated through proper planning prior to the start of the construction project. A thorough safety plan can provide project management guidance in maintaining satisfactory indoor air quality (IAQ) and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) during new construction or renovations.

RHP’s professionals can advise on tactics to reduce air quality issues throughout the construction project. For example, RHP works with construction project managers to review project materials and SDSs to schedule a construction project in a manner that minimizes the absorption of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by porous materials. This includes completion of the application of wet and odorous materials (paints, sealants) before installation of absorbent materials (carpeting, ceiling tiles, upholstered furnishings). Additionally, construction project managers should consider protection of stored building materials against inclement weather, especially porous materials (i.e. drywall), from moisture and microbial growth.

Construction employers and construction special trade contractors can protect employees from IAQ and IEQ issues through implementation of pollution source control by mitigating pollutants from entering a workspace. When additional measures are needed to mitigate IAQ, RHP’s team of professions can assist with assessing, evaluating, and controlling the IAQ.

Silica Testing Services and Experts

Silica is a compound that consists of elemental silicon and oxygen (silicon dioxide). Silica can occur in both crystalline and amorphous forms and is a common substance used in the construction industry. Workers exposed to crystalline silica may suffer from adverse health effects including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.

Construction employers and construction special trade contractors who work near or use crystalline silica products are required to stay within OSHA compliance for silica exposure. Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace with programs and systems in place to protect their employees from workplace hazards, such as the hazards from crystalline silica exposure. According to the hierarchy of controls for exposure of contaminates, the first step is elimination of crystalline silica material, which may not be feasible. Employers are then required to comply with the OSHA silica regulations and rely on engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.

RHP’s industrial hygiene professionals work with construction employers and construction special trade contractors to evaluate and measure worker exposures of airborne concentrations of crystalline silica in the breathing zone and analyze the data in conjunction with accredited laboratories that specialize in industrial hygiene chemistry. The sampling results are compared to OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, and the Action Level (AL) of 25 µg/m3, each averaged over an 8-hour shift, to advise on controls and/or evaluate compliance. OSHA offers guidance to small entity employers seeking to comply with the new construction industry silica standard in the OSHA guidance document.

OSHA regulations require construction and construction special trade contractors to offer medical exams every three years for workers exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days per year. Medical surveillance is required to be offered to any employee who is exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year.

Under the regulations, employers must also:

  • Provide respirators
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan
  • Restrict housekeeping that leads to more silica exposure to workers
  • Limit access to specific areas
  • Train workers
  • Use dust controls and safer work methods
  • Keep records of medical exams
  • Keep records of exposure

Conducting a periodic review/audit of your health and safety records, and particularly those related to exposures like silica, by trained and experienced professionals, such as CIHs and CSPs from RHP, provide peace of mind and assurance of OSHA criteria compliance.

Respirator Fit Testing

A respirator fit test evaluates the seal between the user’s face and the respirator’s facepiece to ensure the respirator is adequately protecting the worker. RHP occupational health and safety professionals regularly perform Quantitative Fit Testing (QNFT) and Qualitative Fit Testing (QLFT) for construction employers and construction special trade contractors to provide the correct PPE to protect workers from respiratory hazards. Fit testing is required under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before any user wears a respirator on the job.

RHP professionals can provide onsite respirator fit testing and training services. RHP professionals will train your designated team members to conduct fit testing as needed and issue a fit test Certificate of Competency to the trained individual to perform future testing.

RHP staff work with construction employers and construction special trade contractors to develop and implement respiratory protection programs to protect workers against adverse health effects. OSHA standards require a written plan on how the respiratory protection program will be administered and demonstrate that the program is enforced and updated as needed.

Contact Us

RHP’s team of Certified Industrial Hygienists and Certified Safety Professionals provides environmental health and safety solutions. We partner with our clients in managing, mitigating, and controlling health risks in their workplaces through the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of environmental and occupational hazards. Contact RHP Risk Management for an initial consultation or call (773) 867-6010.