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.

Download the recording form here.

Back Injury: Causes and Prevention

Originally published 11/01/2017

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injury, even in construction. Once injured, the back can become a life-long source of recurrent pain and potential re-injury that often surgery and medication cannot fix.

The causes of back injuries include:

  • Reaching while lifting,
  • Poor posture,
  • Staying in one position for too long,
  • Poor physical condition,
  • Repetitive lifting,
  • Twisting or bending while lifting,
  • Heavy lifting,
  • Fatigue,
  • Poor footing and
  • Vibrations, such as in lift trucks or delivery trucks.

Back injury can be prevented if you:

  • Minimize the weight, range of motion and frequency of the activity.
  • Plan ahead. Decide how you are going to pick up a load, carry it and set it down, then check the route for obstructions. Always get assistance if the load is too heavy or too awkward.
  • Get as close to the load as possible before lifting. The further the load is from the center line of your body, the greater the strain imposed on your back.
  • Reduce the size or weight of the object(s) being lifted.
  • If possible, push rather than pull an object.
  • Make sure your material handling equipment has handles that can be easily grasped while in an upright posture.
  • Elevate bins and containers and tilt them if possible, to improve access to the materials inside the containers.
  • Provide lift-assist devices.

Remember, too, that stretching before beginning work helps to warm up muscles and prevent strains and sprains. Strength and fitness training can also benefit workers. Rotating employees, providing short breaks every hour or so or using a two-person lift may be helpful in reducing injury as well.

Reducing repetitive stress and acute back injuries by improving workplace ergonomics and worker training improves health and productivity – a win-win for workers and employers.

Download the recording form here.

Preventing Soft Tissue Injury

Originally published 08/16/2017

Soft tissue injury is one of the most common injuries in construction. Soft tissue refers to tissues that connect, support or surround other structures and organs of the body. Here are some of the most common soft tissue injuries reported in construction:

  • Muscle sprains and strains;
  • Injuries to muscles, ligaments, intervertebral dics and other structures in the back;
  • Injuries to nerves, ligaments and tendons in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs;
  • Abdominal hernias; and
  • Chronic pain.

These injuries can occur suddenly or over a prolonged period of time. Risk factors for soft tissue injuries include awkward postures, repetitive motion, excessive force, static posture, vibration and poorly designed tools. The good news is that soft tissue injuries, and the conditions caused by them, are preventable.

The following precautions can help prevent soft tissue injuries:

  • Stretch before you use your muscles.
  • Avoid bending or twisting the back or neck.
  • Avoid overexertion.
  • Use ladders to reach overhead objects and mechanical equipment to carry and move heavy materials.
  • Use proper lifting techniques. Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Make the most of your break times and stretch muscles that have become tense from continuous sitting and/or exposure to vibration.
  • Use tools properly. When possible, keep tools between your waist and shoulder height, which is considered the “lifting zone.” This gives you the most leverage, and allows the strongest muscles to do the work.
  • Keep your work area clean and free of hazards. Pick up loose objects from the floor, and clean up spills immediately to eliminate tripping and slipping hazards.

Take action today. Decide what you can do right now to help prevent a soft tissue injury, and then do it. You’ll end up with a safer workplace and fewer workplace injuries.
Download a recording form here.

Heart Attack – Warning Signs and Symptoms

Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death today. They can occur anytime, but often happen while an individual is engaged in physical exertion.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. There is no doubt what is happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Pain spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms. The pain may be mild to intense and feel like pressure, tightness, burning or a heavy weight. It may be located in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw or inside the arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  •  Other Signs:
    • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating and/or nausea
    • Anxiety, nervousness and/or cold, sweaty skin
    • Paleness or pallor
    • Increased or irregular heart rate
    • Feeling of impending doom

Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If you or someone you know is having symptoms of a heart attack, call 911. Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive – up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.

Remember these signs. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, you should still have it checked out. Fast action can save lives, maybe your own.

Download the recording form here.

Managing Stress

Originally published Oct. 5, 2016

Construction workers consistently deal with extreme temperatures, inclement weather, deadlines, long hours and safety hazards. While all jobs create stress, construction jobsite stress places workers at an increased risk of injury, accident and long-term health consequences. It can also put coworkers at risk. Stress affects people in a variety of ways, including:

  • Difficulty concentrating and low energy;
  • Low morale;
  • Irritability and hot tempers;
  • Headaches, stomach pains and muscle tension;
  • Sleep issues; and
  • Strain on family and social relationships.

All of these can contribute to significant safety risks while on the job. But there are things that you can do to help reduce and manage stress.

If you are a manager, you can help alleviate stress on your jobsite by planning ahead, communicating with your team and providing appropriate and timely feedback. Have weekly meetings where workers are given clear direction and permitted to ask questions, share their ideas and help resolve job issues.

There are many reliable methods for reducing personal stress. Some of them include:

  • Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins and reduces physical pain. It also increases mood and energy levels.
  • Sleep – When you’re deprived of sleep your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotions. Chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with balance, coordination and decision-making – increasing safety risks on the job.
  • Breathe – When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes. They will typically take small, shallow breaths. This type of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body and can prolong feelings of anxiety and increase stress symptoms. Deep breathing (or abdominal breathing) increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and promotes a state of calmness.
  • Eat well and stay hydrated – Food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel. Minimize sugar and refined carbs, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eat more foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, herring, and sardines) and nuts. Reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, trans fats and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones. All of your organs, including the brain, are strongly dependent on water to function properly, so stay hydrated.
  • Communicate – Effective communication can help avoid potential confusion, mix-ups and unnecessary delays – all of which contribute to stress.
  • Create a work/life balance – Be present in the life you have outside of the work place. Whenever possible, leave work at work. Spend time with your family and friends. It’s difficult to nurture relationships if you’re always working or thinking about work.

It’s virtually impossible to eliminate all workplace stress. By deliberately adding some of these stress-reducing techniques to your daily routine, you’ll feel better and you can help avoid accidents, long-term health consequences and possibly temper flare ups while at work.

Download the recording form here.

Asphalt Safety

Originally published Sept. 28, 2016

Many construction workers use hot, liquid asphalt materials on a regular basis without incident, but it’s always wise to recognize possible hazards to avoid injury.

To protect against health hazards when working with hot asphalt, wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes:

  • Chemical goggles and perhaps a face shield;
  • Thermal insulated gloves with gauntlets that extend up the arm (warn loosely so you can removed them quickly if covered with hot asphalt);
  • Non-slip work boots that protect the ankle; and
  • Pants without cuffs that extend over the top of the boots.

Asphalt workers should keep cool water, a multipurpose fire extinguisher and first aid supplies handy in case someone is injured. If someone is injured from asphalt or asphalt fumes, seek medical help immediately. Basic first aid for asphalt injury include:

For Asphalt Fumes:

  • Move the victim to fresh air.
  • Check the victim for breathing difficulties.
  • Start artificial respiration if breathing stops.
  • Get victim to a physician.

For Cold Asphalt:

  • Remove cold asphalt from the skin with waterless hand cleaner or warm mineral oil.
  • Wash skin thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Remove contaminated clothing and shower at once.
  • If contaminant gets in the eyes, flush the eyes for at least five minutes with water, lifting the upper and lower eyelids occasionally.
  • Get victim to a physician.

For Hot Asphalt:

  • Apply cold water or ice pack to asphalt skin burns.
  • Do not remove asphalt from the skin.
  • Do not bandage the burn.
  • Get victim to a physician.


Download the recording form here.