Working in urban environments presents a wide variety of hazards and risks for employees and organizations across many industries. Hazards and risks associated with this work are often not anticipated and can be overlooked in the preplanning stages of projects and tasks. The unique, non-traditional hazards of working in urban environments come from many sources, such as homeless encampments, drug labs, criminal activity, human interaction, and animals, just to name a few. Working in urban environments can be complicated by other factors, such as needle-sharing programs, encountering stolen property, working in areas of high crime and gang activity, and the use of temporary workers by employers.
Health and safety hazards in urban environments can be encountered by workers on construction sites, city streets and parking lots, vacant or abandoned property, environmental cleanup projects, surveying and locating projects, urban campuses, right-of-ways, in retail operations, in and around commercial establishments and healthcare facilities, and in many other work locations and industries. Traditional risk assessment methods provide a starting point for evaluating potential worker exposures. However, non-traditional health and safety hazards must also be considered to fully assess worker health and safety hazards in urban environments.
This paper provides an introduction to the identification of non-traditional health and safety hazards that can arise in urban settings, and suggestions for control methods to protect workers from potential harm. This paper is not a sociopolitical study or statement regarding causes, reasons, or remedies for the hazards and conditions that confront workers in urban environments.