Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

Originally published 12/06/2017

Heart attacks can happen any time, any place – including on the construction site. Knowing the early warning signs of a heart attack is critical for fast diagnosis and treatment.

Many heart attacks start slowly. You might not even know you’re having one. And the symptoms vary greatly. Even a person who has had a previous heart attack may have different symptoms if they have another attack. And women can experience heart attacks differently than men.

Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, a person may experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain, fullness, and/or a squeezing sensation of the chest;
  • Jaw pain, toothache or headache;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general upper middle abdomen discomfort;
  • Sweating;
  • Heartburn and/or indigestion;
  • Arm pain – more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm;
  • Upper back pain;
  • A general, vague feeling of illness and
  • Some people do not experience any symptoms. Approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent – without chest pain or other symptoms. Silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes.

Go for regular check-ups, eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough sleep. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you think you or someone around you is displaying heart attack symptoms, do something about it. Get it checked out.

What to do if someone appears to be having a heart attack:

  • Call 911. Even if it ends up not being a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry. Getting the proper medical attention quickly for a heart attack victim is their best chance to survive an attack.
  • Try to keep the person calm, and have them sit or lie down.
  • Have the person take an aspirin (as long as they can talk to you and tell you they are not allergic to aspirin).
  • If the person stops breathing, you or someone else who is qualified, should perform CPR. If you do not know CPR, the 911 operator can assist you until the EMS personnel arrive.

Take heart attack symptoms seriously. We know most of the people we work with pretty well. If something seems wrong, talk to the person or get a supervisor involved. Know the emergency response plan on your worksite. Knowing who to call, the address of the worksite and who is CPR trained onsite can save a life.

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Carbon Monoxide Hazards

Originally published 11/3/2016

Small gasoline-powered engines and tools used in construction can produce high concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a poisonous gas that can cause illness, permanent neurological damage and death. Because it is tasteless, colorless, odorless and non-irritating, CO can overcome exposed persons without warning. There is often little time before they experience symptoms that inhibit their ability to seek safety.

Common signs of overexposure to CO include headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, visual disturbances, changes in personality and loss of consciousness. Any of these symptoms can occur within minutes.

Prior use of equipment without incident has sometimes given users a false sense of safety. Recommendations for preventing CO poisoning include:

  • Educate workers about the sources and conditions that could result in CO poisoning, as well as the symptoms and control of CO exposure.
  • Conduct a workplace survey to identify all potential sources of CO exposure.
  • Use personal CO monitors where potential sources of CO exist. These monitors should be equipped with audible alarms to warn workers when CO concentrations are too high.
  • Consider the use of tools powered by electricity or compressed air if they are available and can be used safely.
  • When using gasoline-powered engines or tools outside of a building, never place them near air intakes so that engine exhaust is not drawn indoors.
  • Always place the pump and power unit of high-pressure washers outdoors. Run only the high-pressure wash line inside.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed as the flu. If you suspect that a worker has symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following steps:

  • Open the doors and windows.
  • Turn off combustion appliances and have everyone leave the area immediately.
  • Since CO can cause long-term, and even permanent injury and illness, seek medical attention.

A CO detector can be a viable solution to preventing CO-related mishaps. It is a small, easy-to-install gadget that is available at most hardware stores. CO detectors usually cost less than $100, and some even combine the safety features of a smoke alarm with carbon monoxide detection.

Like other jobsite hazards, CO mishaps are preventable. We must all recognize where the hazards exist and put appropriate controls in place to avoid unintentional injuries.

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Why Seat Belts?

Originally published 10/17/2017

Do you drive a vehicle for your company, or operate a piece of heavy equipment on the construction site? If so, do you wear your seat belt?

  • People give all kinds of reasons for not wearing a seat belt.
  • “They’re uncomfortable.”
  • “I’m a good driver.”
  • “I don’t need to because my vehicle has air bags.”
  • “They wrinkle my clothes.”
  • “I’m afraid of getting stuck in the vehicle after a crash.”
  • And many more.

Seat belts promote safety by keeping you from hitting the windshield, being thrown from a vehicle, or banging around inside the vehicle and hitting the steering wheel or door if you’re in an accident.

In off-road equipment, your seat belt is foremost designed to keep you in your seat in case of a tip-over. Normal human behavior is to try to jump when a piece of equipment starts to tip. The problem is, you can’t get away from the machine fast enough and the machine will most likely end up crushing you at the head, neck, shoulders or chest. So in a tip-over, you want to wear your seat belt, keep your hands and feet in the cab, lean away from the point of impact and ride it out.

Before you get in your vehicle, know your surroundings. Are there steep slopes or unstable ground?

Inspect your seat belts. Look for broken, missing or frayed belts or damaged belt buckles, and report any problems to your supervisor. Do not use the equipment or drive the vehicle until the seat belts are operating properly.

When you put on your seat belt, be sure to wear it properly. Don’t put the strap under your arm or behind your back. Be sure to cinch the belt tight so that it surrounds your torso and fits snugly.

Be sure the equipment is completely turned off, the parking brake is engaged and the equipment is parked on a level, stable surface before you remove your seat belt.

If your company doesn’t have a seat belt policy, talk to a supervisor about setting one. If you make it a point to buckle up every time you get in a vehicle, eventually you won’t even have to think about it. It will be a habit – a habit that could help you avoid serious injury or even death. Remember, it’s up to you to make safe decisions.

Download the recording form here.

Cylinder Storage & Safety

Originally published 10/3/2017

Mishandled cylinders may rupture violently, release their hazardous contents or become dangerous projectiles. Special precautions are necessary when storing and handling compressed gas cylinders. Carelessness, abuse and complacency can result in a disaster.

Recommendations for cylinder storage:

  • Store cylinders in an upright position and secure them to a fixed location, such as a wall or work bench. Secure each cylinder at a point approximately 2/3 of its height.
  • Use appropriate material such as chains, plastic coated wire cable or commercially available cylinder straps to secure cylinders. Secure them individually, i.e., one restraint per cylinder.
  • Do not store gas cylinders in public hallways, beneath egress stairways or other unprotected areas.
  • Do not store cylinders near an actual or potential heat source, or where it will be exposed to weather extremes.
  • Segregate the cylinders in hazard classes for storage. At the minimum, oxidizers (such as oxygen) must be separated from flammable gases.
  • Isolate empty cylinders from filled cylinders. Do not discard them in the normal trash.
  • Do not store cylinders where heavy objects could fall on them.

To transport cylinders:

  • Be sure the valve protection cap is in place.
  • Do not use the protective valve cap for moving or lifting the cylinder.
  • Do not drag, slide or roll the cylinder. Use a cylinder cart or truck to move the cylinder(s).
  • Do not drop a cylinder, or permit cylinders to strike each other violently or be handled roughly.
  • Never transport a cylinder with the regulator in place.
  • Secure the cylinder to the cart or truck during transport.

Before and during use:

  • Use only the regulator designed for the material in use.
  • Do not grease or oil the regulator or cylinder valves.
  • Open the valve slowly and only with the proper regulator in place. Open it all the way.
  • Do not leave the valve open when the equipment is not in use – even if the cylinder is empty.
  • Keep the cylinder clear of all sparks, flames and electrical circuits.
  • Never rely on the color coding to identify the gas. Different manufacturers may use different coding systems.
  • Don’t use oxygen in place of compressed air.
  • Don’t use copper fittings or tubing on acetylene tanks as an explosion may result.
  • Wear appropriate PPE for the hazard potential of the material you are working with.

Most people think the cylinders on their worksite are safe. However, cylinders are safe only if treated properly. Make sure you know how to handle them.

 Download the recording form here.

Rebar: Impalement Protection

Originally published 09/06/2019

Rebar is a common safety hazard on construction sites. These steel bars have the ability to cut, scratch, pierce and impale workers, which can result in serious injuries and even death. In order to eliminate the hazard of impalement, rebar and other projections on a work site should be guarded or covered. Regardless of the impalement protection method used, it is crucial to always wear proper fall protection equipment when working above rebar or other sharp protrusions.

It is also important that you wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves, eye protection and boots (making sure the shoestrings and pant legs are tucked into the boots to prevent hang-ups when walking through flatwork).

Following are some tips on how contractors can protect employees from impalement hazards:

  • When possible, prevent employee access to or above areas with protruding rebar.
  • Fabricate and securely install a wooden trough on top of a line of protruding rebar. Typically, these troughs are constructed of 2 x 4s and run the length of the protruding rebar. The trough must have passed a “drop test” of 250 pounds from a height of ten feet without penetration to demonstrate impalement protection.
  • Bend rebar so exposed ends are no longer upright.
  • Use steel reinforced caps or covers for protruding rebar with at least a four inch by four inch surface area for square caps, and a four and a half inch diameter for round caps. Mushroom caps are designed to provide scratch protection and should only be used when there is no risk of impalement.

No matter what method is used to protect employees from impalement hazards, workers should always be vigilant when protruding rebar is exposed.

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Safety Tips for Working Alone

Originally published 08/23/2017

Some construction jobs require an employee to work in an isolated environment for a period of time. Doing a job alone can be more hazardous than doing the same job in the company of others. If you’re injured, ill or trapped, there’s no one nearby to help or call for assistance. It’s a good idea to assess the situation and see if it’s possible to reschedule the job, so others can be present or close by. This is especially true if the project requires an employee to work at heights, operate hazardous equipment or materials, enter confined spaces or enter areas with insufficient lighting.

Supervisors should also:

  • Assess whether the worker might be more vulnerable than others. Consider age, disabilities and medical suitability of the individual.
  • Assess the worker’s levels of training and experience.
  • Make sure they know where their lone workers will be and have a system in place to touch base with and monitor them.

If you are working alone, consider these safety tips:

  • Talk to your supervisor and colleagues about your job, the hazards and how to minimize risks.
  • Ensure that others on your crew know where you will be working and when.
  • Have a check-in system in place. This could include:
    • Prearranged intervals of regular phone contact. Be sure your mobile phone is fully charged, or you have another communications tool in the event there’s no phone coverage.
    • Periodic visits to the site by a coworker or supervisor, so they can visually check on you.
    • Use of a “man down” or personal monitoring device that recognizes when a worker has stopped moving.
    • Arranging to call someone at the end of your shift to let them know you are OK.
  • Have a first aid kit, and know how to use it.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on-site at all times, and know how to use it.

Establish an emergency plan in case an accident occurs, and make sure everyone on the site understands it and knows what their responsibilities are. Consider publishing these helpful tips in your company’s health and safety policy statement.

Download the recording form here.