Controlling hazardous substances

Construction work can involve a number of hazardous substances. The sections below provide more information about what you need to know and do.

  • Key points construction workers are exposed to a number of hazardous substances. Be aware of the significance of the ill health effects these cause and the main risk factors behind them.
  • Construction dust overview - construction dust is not just a nuisance; it can be a real risk to your lungs.
  • Cement - cement based products, like concrete or mortar, can cause serious skin problems such as dermatitis and burns.
  • Lead - lead is still commonly used and found in older buildings. Breathing in lead dust and fume inadvertently or swallowing it can cause serious health problems.
  • Solvents overview - solvents are found in many products such as paints, thinners, resins and glues. Poorly controlled work with solvents can create both short-term ill-health effects and longer term disease.
  • Isocyanates overview - products that contain isocyanates include paints, coatings, foams and glues. Exposure to isocyanates can create a risk of asthma and dermatitis.
  • Harmful micro-organisms overview - construction workers can be exposed to a variety of disease causing micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. They can be transmitted through the air, by hand to mouth contact or through the skin and lead to a range of health problems.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) - this is a colourless and tasteless poisonous gas produced by gas appliances and engines when there is not sufficient air for them to work correctly. Carbon monoxide can kill.

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Updated 2022-11-01