Weil’s disease, caused by Leptospira bacteria, and spread by rodents, is debilitating or even fatal in 10% of cases.
Construction workers who come into contact with sewers, waterways and flood zones or derelict areas can find themselves at risk of contracting Leptospirosis, which can develop into the more serious form of the infection: Weil’s disease. Rodents carry the bacterium and can spread it to humans who come into contact with these contaminated settings.
What is the threat for the construction industry?
Despite Leptospirosis not being very common in the UK, the risks are severe and something that workers need to be aware of. The bacteria can develop into Weil’s disease and poses serious long-term and life threatening health risks. If left untreated, the infection could lead to internal bleeding, organ failure and mental health problems. Within the construction industry, complacency and the lack of awareness can be detrimental for workers – we urge that there needs to better education for workers to understand symptoms they need to look out for.
At the start of a new construction project, in particular those first on site and undertaking groundworks need to beware that infection can lurk in surrounding rundown areas.
Early symptoms of Leptospirosis resemble a cold or the flu; for instance, suffering with headaches or a fever. Sensitivity to light, chills, muscle pain, fatigue and vomiting are also common features of the infection. Due to the likeness, Leptospirosis could be easily dismissed as something less threatening. If construction workers show signs of the above symptoms having been in contact with canal, river water, rats or landfill areas, it is extremely important for them to visit their doctor immediately and state that they suspect Leptospirosis.
How can employers ensure protection for workers?
Leptospirosis bacteria can enter the body through the eyes, nose and through cuts and grazes in the skin. Whilst at work, workers ought to avoid touching their face and follow good person hygiene practice. Good hygiene can sometimes go amiss, especially as water supply can be sparse on site. Employers ought to allocate protective clothing and specialised hand wipes in order for workers to conveniently disinfect their hands and keep protected.
Employers need to report any cases of Leptospirosis contracted at work to the HSE in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Self-employed workers, who contract the disease, must also report the incident themselves to RIDDOR.
Article posted by
Lauren Applebey in SHP online