Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

March 20, 2013


Considering the worker in workplace safety and health

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They were among the first work-related fatalities recorded in Oregon this year: In late January, a worker was found hunched over the side of a bathtub with his head submerged in water. He had been working alone at a home in Portland resurfacing the tub in a closed bathroom with little ventilation. Eight days later, a worker fell 15 feet while attempting to install a fall-protection anchor on another home in Portland.

The bathtub refinisher died from overexposure to methylene chloride, a common chemical in many bathtub-refinishing products. About this time last year, methylene chloride made the news after researchers at Michigan State University linked it to 13 work-related deaths (including three in Michigan) since 2000. The victims were all working alone, without protective equipment, and in small, poorly ventilated rooms.

The other Portland victim was a young Hispanic man employed by a small construction contractor. He survived the 15-foot fall but died in a coma 11 days later. Coincidently, a new study of fatal falls from roofs at construction sites, funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, emphasizes the need to educate small employers and Hispanic workers about fall prevention. The study, "Fatal Falls from Roofs Among U.S. Construction Workers," which appears in the February issue of the of Journal of Safety Research (Vol. 44), found that Hispanic or foreign-born construction workers were 50 percent more likely to have fatal falls from roofs than most other workers.

These two recent fatalities highlight the importance of preventing safety-related and health-related accidents, especially at small "mobile" sites where the jobs don't take long to do and require only a few workers. We know how to prevent such accidents and we know who is at risk. The challenge is reaching those who are most in need of the information.


Reprinting, excerpting, or plagiarizing any part of this publication is fine with us!

But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.

For information about Oregon OSHA services and answers to technical questions, call (503) 378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, (800) 922-2689.