The Hazards of a Carpentry Career
More than 1.2 million Americans are carpenters in 2002. Carpenters are much involved in laborious and manual tasks, it is unavoidable that some carpenters get injured while they are performing their jobs. A carpentry career is one of the most hazardous jobs.
Carpentry jobs are not only physically demanding but are also emotionally and mentally demanding. Physical demands include sitting, standing, walking, climbing, crawling, bending, carrying and lifting heavy equipment without limitations or aids to perform the activities.
Not only is carpentry physically challenging but it also requires ability to learn, remember, and integrate rules, policies or practices guiding the performance of an activity. It also requires ability to communicate verbally especially with supervisors, co-workers and students to gather information and/or explain procedures.
Carpentry also requires ability to record very limited information such as phone messages or other brief notations using handwritten or mechanical means. Ability to hear and understand speech on limited basis using amplifying equipment and hearing aid is also needed.
Because of using powered and non-powered tools, carpenters may fall victims to electrocution, being struck by broken drills, cutters, and other equipment that may end to serious eye, head, facial injury, cuts and lacerations.
They are also frequently working at heights which may include mobile plant including mobile platform. Fall from heights are possibilities which may lead to potential death or serious injury.
Carpenters are also regularly exposed to hazardous substances such as wood dust, asbestos, medium density fireboard (MDF). Short-term exposure to such substances may result into respiratory complications. While long-term exposure may lead to chronic respiratory illnesses including asbestosis.
To avoid these, it is important to assess the work area and identify the materials that contain asbestos before starting the job. It is also important to provide a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) so that carpenters and other employees may know what hazardous materials they are expected to deal with and take the necessary precautions.
It is also important to provide dust bags for hand tools and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to serve as protection against the dust and chemical vapours. It is also important to follow the safety procedures and working instructions written on the MSDS.
Meanwhile, all the physical working and manual handling like bending, reaching, pulling, stretching, lifting, repetitive motions and awkward posture may lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). These disorders affect the body’s muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves.
Health problems may range from discomfort, minor aches and pains, to more serious medical conditions requiring time-off work and even medical treatment. There may even be chronic cases that can lead to permanent disability. To avoid MSD, providing training in safe manual handling techniques, providing mechanical aids, team lifts, and exercising before shift or working day is necessary.
Exposure to noise is also something that cannot be avoided. Long term exposure to excessive noise can lead to hearing loss. It is important to use the appropriate PPE to limit exposure to excessive noise.
Carpenters are also frequently exposed to sun, rain, and other climate changes. They may be exposed to hot weather conditions. Exposure to hot weather may lead to heat rashes, heat cramps, heat stress, dehydration and sunburn. It is important to have regular breaks to have time to avoid the sun. Meanwhile, in extreme weather conditions like intense heat, it is better to re-schedule work. Lots of water and fluid intake is a great way of avoiding dehydration. Also, dress appropriately to avoid rashes and sunburn.
Since a carpentry career is a male dominated profession, females working in this field cannot avoid experiencing sexual harassment. Even males experience work place bullying. This may result to emotional stress, fear and anxiety and physical illness. It is important to establish work place policy and strictly enforce this policy. There must be work place briefings and trainings instructing employees to report any cases similar to these immediately.