Detecting a Stroke

A construction site is often a hectic place with an incredibly high level of activity. Workers and machines move about in a frenzy, with everyone focused on the task at hand. In this environment, it’s easy to miss the signs and symptoms of a serious health situation, like a stroke. Early detection is critical to saving a life.

A stoke happens quickly. Most neurologists agree that if a victim is treated within the first three hours of its onset, some effects of a stroke can be totally reversed.

The following are the most common symptoms of stroke. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Also, remember that not all of the symptoms occur every time; so don’t ignore any of the symptoms, even if they go away.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding;
  • Sudden problems with vision such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes;
  • Sudden dizziness or problems with balance or coordination;
  • Sudden problems with movement or walking; and
  • Sudden severe headaches with no other known cause.

The first three letters in the word stroke can help you determine if a person is having a stroke. Ask the individual to:

  • S – Smile
  • T – Talk – Get them to speak a simple sentence, coherently, such as “It is sunny out today.”
  • R – Raise both arms.

Another method for remembering what symptoms to look for is the word “FAST.” The letters remind you to look for:

  • Facial weakness – Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eyes drooped?
  • Arm weakness – Can the person raise both arms and hold them parallel?
  • Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time is critical – Contact your supervisor immediately and consider calling 911.

Also, if you ask the person to stick out their tongue and, when they do, it is ‘crooked’ or goes to one side or the other, there is a great likelihood that this person is having a stroke.

No matter the method you use to detect the signs and symptoms of a stroke, remember to seek medical attention – even if you are not sure. It’s always best to err on the side of safety.

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How to Prevent Soft Tissue Injury

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.

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The Importance of Safety Training

Safety training is vital to every construction workplace, and should include all employees whether they are full- or part-time, new hires, contract workers, supervisors and managers or workers in high risk areas. Do not overlook the long-term worker whose job changes as a result of new processes or materials.

Some companies tend to be apprehensive about the amount of time and cost involved with safety training and development; however, reports show that the investment in training guarantees positive results, and helps decrease workplace hazards, injuries and deaths.

Training does come with a cost, but workplace accidents cost much more.

Costs to the employee due to an accident could include:

  • Lost wages; injury or death; mental anguish; physical pain and suffering; decreased active participation with family and friends; and the inability to be productive on or off the job.

Costs to the employer could include:

  • Workers’ Compensation claims; medical bills; associated legal fees; possible increased insurance costs and uninsured property damage costs; loss of a valuable employee; lost efficiency on the job while training someone new; damaged or destroyed equipment, materials or tools and more.

Most of the injuries that result from workplace accidents could have been prevented with increased awareness of possible hazards and proper training. Properly trained employees are more likely to notice and report problems so that solutions can be found before an accident occurs.

Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility. Report unsafe acts and near-misses immediately. Listen and learn from all training provided, and be an active participant in learning a job skill or safety issue. Ask questions if training or instruction is not clear. Readdress issues with the supervisor on unresolved topics. Be an active part of the safety of your jobsite. Participate in safety meetings and training sessions, and set a good example for others on the work crew.

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Insect Bites and Stings

In the United States, ants sting 9.3 million people each year. Wasps, bees and spiders account for more than a million stings and bites annually. Sometimes that pesky mosquito bite needs nothing more than a little hydrocortisone cream and time to heal. But occasionally, it’s not so simple.

While most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous if we don’t treat them properly – especially if you have an undiagnosed allergy to a particular venom, or if the bug is a disease carrier. According to the Center for Disease Control, insect bites (including spider bites) accounted for 36,100 non-fatal injuries and illnesses involving time away from work between 1992 and 1997. That’s more than 7,000 cases per year, and there is no indication that the number has decreased since that time.

In extreme cases, a reaction to a bite or sting can cause a trip to a hospital emergency room. Dr. Margaret Parsons, dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, advises people to go to the emergency room after being stung or bitten if they experience the sensation that the throat is closing, chest pain, a persistent racing heartbeat, dizziness or vomiting.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most common bites and stings in the United States come from mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, bees, wasps, hornets, biting flies, mites, ticks, fire ants and bedbugs. Tick bites have the potential to carry Lyme disease. Spider bites can cause serious, localized skin destruction, depending on the species. Several mosquito species carry and transmit the West Nile virus. West Nile is tricky since between 70 and 80 percent of people don’t exhibit symptoms once they’re infected. But in severe cases, patients will typically experience headaches, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and/or rash. Hospitalization to provide fluids intravenously and pain medication may be necessary in these cases.

Types of insect bite and sting reactions include:


Within minutes of a bite or sting, localized inflammation occurs. With bee and wasp stings, pain may range from mild to severe. In some cases, swelling can last from 48 hours to one week.

Toxic Systemic

Caused by venom injections, this reaction can be difficult to distinguish from systemic allergic reactions because the signs and symptoms are similar.

Systemic Allergic

This Type I hypersensitivity causes an immediate and obvious reaction resulting in skin hives or deep tissue swelling.


This Type III hypersensitivity has a delayed reaction that can lead to serum sickness, which typically occurs days or weeks after the sting or bite. Serum sickness can cause inflammation of different organ systems, affecting the blood vessels, nerves, brain or kidneys. It can also cause clotting abnormalities.

Fall is an active time for stinging insects and spiders. Take precautions to prevent bites and stings:

  • Avoid scented insect repellents and other products with sweet fragrances;
  • Avoid bright-colored clothes;
  • Tuck in your shirt and pant cuffs;
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts; and
  • Cover all drinks and containers.

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Prevent Overexertion Injuries

Caring for our bodies is critical in creating and maintaining a successful construction career. This doesn’t mean you need to be a champion weight lifter or an Olympic athlete, but success involves taking care of your primary asset – your body.

According to the National Safety Council, physical overexertion is the most common cause of workers’ compensation claims. Repetitive motions such as typing, lifting heavy objects or working in awkward positions usually cause these injuries. The overexertion pain is often acute, but it will decrease after medical care and preventative measures to prevent further injury. Constant overexertion can result in chronic pain, leading to problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.

You can avoid physical overexertion by:

  • Using ergonomic workspaces. This will ensure that you use materials and tools in a way that minimizes stress on your body as you work.
  • Lifting lighter loads. Reduce the actual amount of weight you are lifting, or use a dolly or mechanical means of lifting.
  • Decreasing the distance you stretch to lift a heavy object. You may be tempted to overstretch when tools are just out of reach. This can also lead to falls.
  • Strength training and stretching. Many resist the idea of stretching before work, but statistics prove that this is an excellent way to avoid an overexertion injury.
  • Knowing and respecting your body’s limits. This is key to avoiding injuring yourself as you work.

Other important factors linked to overexertion include:


Burning the candle at both ends is an unsustainable and unhealthy way to live. Sleep is essential to your health; it allows the mind and body to heal and recharge after dealing with the previous day’s stress.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and Dehydration

Did you ever have such a busy day that you forgot to eat or drink enough water? This can contribute to your health risk, particularly if you are overexerting yourself. Hypoglycemia and dehydration can have serious health implications.

What a Pain in the Knee

Every year, the construction industry accounts for nearly 1.8 million injuries that result from physical strain, and approximately 40 percent of all worker compensation claims involve medical treatment for these injuries. Knee injuries account for a sizable number of reported incidences. Like many injuries, once you injure your knee, you have increased the chances for knee pain later in life.

A survey in the Journal of Civil Engineering and Management revealed 90 percent of all construction workers suffer pain, and 89 percent continue to work right through the pain. When it comes to an injury, suffering is not the best approach to healing. Being knowledgeable about various types of knee injuries and knowing how to deal with them is a much better approach.

Ligament Sprains

Ligaments are bands of strong tissue that stabilize the knee joint. Overstretching can cause the ligament fiber to tear and bleed into the surrounding tissues, causing pain, swelling and a feeling of ‘giving way.’ Severe tears may require surgery.

Cartilage Tears

Cartilage also helps stabilize and protect the knee joint. Pressure from twisting and turning during weight-bearing activities may tear the cartilage, causing pain, swelling and locking of the knee joint.

Tendon Strains

Tendons are cord-like bands that connect muscle to bone. The patellar tendon connects the kneecap (patella) to the tibia (shin). Patellar tendonitis or ‘jumper’s knee’ is inflammation of the patellar tendon. This is an overuse injury commonly caused by repeated jumping.

Patello-Femoral Syndrome

Excessive friction between the surface of the patello-femoral joint (kneecap) and the femur (thigh) can result in knee pain.

So what can you do once you’ve injured your knee? Treatment depends on your specific injury, and what your doctor has to say. Mild to moderate injuries will often heal on their own, given time. To speed the following, you can:

  • Give your knee a rest for a few days and avoid intense activity.
  • Ice your knee for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times a day, for the first two or three days following an injury to help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Compress your knee using an elastic bandage, straps or sleeves to add support or reduce swelling.
  • Elevate your knee on a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down in order to reduce swelling.
  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil®, Aleve® or Motrin® to help with pain and swelling. These drugs can have side effects and should be used only occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.
  • Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them.