Common health concerns construction industry

To work in the construction industry one has to be logical, dedicated and have the ability to travel and be away from home frequently. But most of all one needs to be in excellent health to handle the demands of a very physical career.

Dr Richard Malkin, MD of Workforce Healthcare, a specialist health and wellness company that brings health testing, primary and occupational healthcare directly to the workplace, singled out some of the main health concerns people who work in the construction industry should be aware of:

  1. Injuries on the job.

These range from falling from great heights, collapse of excavations and being hit by heavy machinery, thereby twisting of a joint. Dr Malkin explains that construction is a very physically demanding career in which one needs to have good reflexes to prevent injury. However, if injury on the job occurs, it could lead to long-term injury, like chronic back pain, which needs to be managed appropriately. For this, Dr Malkin advises medical examinations that are risk based and job specific ensuring the engineer is fit to work under defined conditions which will reduce risk of getting injured

  1. Exposure to dust on building sites.

Exposure to excessive dust at building sites can lead to long-term respiratory conditions. Dr Malkin advises that annual medical exams in which a lung function test and a chest X-ray is performed is a necessity for those who work at construction sites. An annual check-up will also include risk-based assessments which factor in height and weight, urine test, drug tests, a physical exam, psychometric testing and a hearing test.

  1. Lifestyle diseases

Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are a concern in all workplaces, however considering the stress and physical nature of construction as a career, those who work in the construction industry could be at great risk of developing these types of illnesses. Dr Malkin explains that diabetes and high blood pressure can greatly affect an individual’s fitness levels, which is dangerous for civil engineers as they need to have good physical fitness as a requirement of the job. “It’s important to have regular check-ups so that these lifestyle diseases can be identified, managed with medication and monitored,” Dr Malkin says.

  1. Depression and substance abuse

One of the demands of construction as a career is the ability to be away from home often while visiting building sites and other projects. This could lead to loneliness and feelings of depression. Construction is also a physically demanding career that can be very stressful. Dr Malkin says that anyone and everyone can be affected by substance abuse but added stress, peer pressure and depression can increase an individual’s risk of abusing alcohol or drugs. Dr Malkin advises that workplace awareness programmes can help to educate people in the construction industry as to the dangers of substance abuse, especially in a career that requires an individual to be completely sober and have good reflexes while on the job. However, he says that access to counsellors via 24-hour call centres, such as Workforce Healthcare’s, can provide a very important support system for those struggling with depression and substance abuse.