In many parts of the U.S. and Canada, a long, cold winter is finally giving way to rising temperatures and more opportunities for members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) to get back to work on construction jobsites. Members will surely welcome this opportunity, but it’s important to remember that this time of year can also bring additional safety and health risks for workers. Coming back to work after some time off or quickly ramping up to full-time activity can increase risk for sprains and strains. In warmer areas, this time of year brings additional risks for heat stress, as the body needs time to acclimate to working in high-heat environments.
These realities make this time of year an excellent opportunity to refresh workers on the hazards they are likely to face on the job. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) is making this easier for LIUNA signatory contractors through its Toolbox Talk series. Our pamphlets on over 30 different hazards deliver 5-10 minute reminders on safe work practices and include sample discussion questions to help engage workers.
Construction and other industries that LIUNA members work in every day are high hazard professions where workplace safety and health should not be taken for granted. There’s no better reminder of this fact than Workers’ Memorial Day. Observed annually here in the U.S. on April 28th – and in Canada as the National Day of Mourning – this day gave us a chance to mourn for and remember all the workers who have lost their lives while on the job. It also serves as a constant reminder to all LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, health and welfare funds, signatory contractors and members about the importance of promoting safety on the job. It may only be observed once a year, but Workers’ Memorial Day and the tragedies it stands for continue to impact how we approach our mission here at the LHSFNA on a daily basis.
In the U.S. alone, on-the-job injuries killed nearly 1,000 construction workers in 2016. More than 60 percent of these deaths continue to be caused by what safety and health professionals refer to as the “fatal four” – falls, being struck by objects, electrocutions and being caught in between two objects or surfaces. Whether the work is at a downtown construction site or inside a highway work zone, these four hazards are almost always present for LIUNA members. National campaigns like Work Zone Awareness Week and this month’s National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction help call further attention to these on-the-job hazards.
In addition to these annual safety campaigns, this time of year also marks the kickoff of the Fund’s annual Sun Sense Plus campaign. Each year this campaign helps LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions and signatory contractors educate LIUNA members about how to reduce their risk for skin cancer and heat stress. Sun Sense Plus products like sunscreen, lip balm, neck flaps and cooling cloths also help protect LIUNA members from the high-heat environments and the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This year the Fund is also offering a new product – an insect repellent towelette that will help protect members from mosquitoes, ticks and other biting insects that can spread disease and make working outdoors more hazardous. The LHSFNA is proud to provide these materials free of charge to LIUNA signatory contractors and other LIUNA affiliates as part of our commitment to keeping LIUNA members safe and healthy year round.
The Sun Sense Plus campaign is one of many programs and services the Fund offers to LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, health and welfare funds and signatory contractors. If you need assistance with any issue related to the health and safety of LIUNA members, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.