It’s only a month into 2015 and there’s already much to be optimistic about here at the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. Spring, the traditional start of construction’s busy season, is only a few short weeks away. And by all accounts, 2015 is shaping up to be a promising year in the construction industry, with some forecasts projecting an 11 percent increase in construction spending from last year.
In light of this welcome news, this edition of Lifelines puts a special focus on helping LIUNA members and signatory contractors succeed in what looks to be a particularly busy time.
Although it has faded into the background lately, Ebola’s arrival in the U.S. in 2014 was a public health wake-up call. The crisis exposed how ill-prepared federal and state agencies were to handle an infectious disease outbreak. But it’s not only exotic diseases like Ebola that threaten public health and pose a danger to health care workers across the country. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria sicken and kill thousands in the U.S. and Canada each year. These diseases often originate and spread in hospitals and other health care settings, jeopardizing the well-being of patients and employees alike. Health care-associated infections are of special concern to LIUNA members, some of whom work in these environments daily. This edition of Lifelines takes a look at this growing problem from the perspective of both the patients and the workers on the front lines.
Another hot-button issue from 2014 that continues to evolve in 2015 is marijuana use. November’s midterm elections saw many states change their laws for handling the drug. But as Jamie Becker, the LHSFNA’s Associate Director of Health Promotion, explains in this month’s issue, even if marijuana is now legal in your state, using it could spell trouble for you on the job. Now is an opportune time for employers to review their drug policies and for employees to familiarize themselves with what is and is not allowed at job sites.
Safety hazards are often a big focus in Lifelines, but this month’s issue also devotes some time to chemical health hazards. For the past several years, the LHSFNA has been involved in developing a new approach to protect against health hazards in construction. This edition explores this new approach as the standard nears final approval. Along these lines, one chemical exposure drawing more attention recently is lead. While environmental sources of lead have been drastically reduced over the past several decades, occupational exposures remain a real concern for Laborers, particularly those involved in bridge repair and demolition work.
As construction picks up in 2015, so does the risk of sustaining a back injury. The rate of back injuries in the construction industry is consistently among the highest of any occupation, with one in 100 workers missing anywhere from a week to a month of work each year. With this in mind, we explore whether stretching programs are really effective at preventing back injuries, and look at steps employers and workers can take to prevent these debilitating injuries.
Lastly, we want to bring attention to the valuable collection of health and safety materials available through our Publications Catalogue. Among them are new materials from our Health Promotion Division on stress, including two new Health Alerts and a toolbox talk. Stress is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Helping members and their families find healthy ways to manage stress is just one more way that the LHSFNA fulfills its goal of improving health and safety for LIUNA members and LIUNA’s signatory contractors.