It is no secret that the construction industry is a dangerous one. There are so frequently stories in the news of injured workers and accidents on constructions sites that it has become almost commonplace to expect such events to occur. While we know accidents will happen, we want to be sure we do everything possible to prevent them. This means being aware of the changes that occur every day that may affect our ability to do our jobs and maintain our safety. One of the biggest changes that are occurring in our world which we may not even notice or be aware of is climate change. With large-scale weather events and fluctuations in temperature, this is sure to impact the construction industry, but how?
Increase In Construction Jobs
Before we go into any negative aspects, let’s focus on the positive. There is some great news for job-seekers and those who are already employed in the construction industry. The industry is growing and is projected to continue to do so. With the new presidential push to improve the country’s infrastructure, the construction industry expects to continue to see growth. In addition to this industry growth, average earnings are climbing as well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs in general increased in January 2018 and construction jobs contributed greatly to this increase with an additional 36,000 people added to this industry in December 2017 to January 2018. This increase in jobs was the highest level of increase since August of 2008 according to the Associated General Contractors of America. This increase in jobs may also be attributed to the fact that in some areas of the country the warmer seasons are lasting longer. This impact of climate change could be one of the positive ones.
Unfortunately, while employment in the industry is in a great place several safety hazards are present due to climate change. Obviously, safety is a top concern in the industry and many rules, standards and procedures are put in place in order to ensure workers remain safe and healthy while doing their jobs. Yet, some things that are completely out of our hands affect workers daily and make maintaining a safe environment much more difficult. According to the CDC, some of the hazards to construction workers created by climate change are:
- Extreme Weather – There have been a large number of natural disasters recently including wildfires, floods, and storms with high winds. Such events have resulted in injuries and deaths to workers both during the event and while cleaning and restoring the sites after they occurred.
- Exposure To Heat – While the weather has had plenty of snow and cold days, last year was the warmest year on record. High temperatures do provide more available time to work for many construction sites but heat presents a very serious danger to workers. Those who have been exposed to high temperature for long periods of time run the risk of suffering a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. These conditions can be very serious and even lead to death!
- Pollution and Biological Hazards – Pollution is a serious problem for everyone but those that work outdoors are often affected the most. Pollution is linked to respiratory problems such as asthma and different allergy problems. Biological hazards are also increased with climate change as temperatures affect the things such as mold, bacteria and diseases, and even the insect population which carries disease. Construction workers who spend a lot their time outside run the greatest risk of being negatively affected by these hazards as well.
Materials Can Suffer
One of the other struggles that are present is that materials used in construction cannot always stand up to the extremes that are occurring with the weather. Items such as brick and wood are deteriorating faster in already existing structures. New materials may be needed to withstand the changes in that are happening. For instance, a study completed by CSIRO showed that a large amount of carbon dioxide was found to have penetrated the concrete, especially in urban areas. This shows that the pollution that is greater in cities is negatively affecting materials used in construction.