Health Risk Behaviors in Construction

Source: Dwight Smith - 123RF

A recent study by NIOSH, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine examined six health risk behaviors among construction workers:

  • Smoking;
  • Smokeless tobacco use;
  • Binge drinking;
  • Sleep;
  • Seatbelt use; and
  • Off-the-job physical activity.

According to NIOSH, construction workers are in physically demanding jobs and exposed to many chemical and physical workplace hazards.

The study found that:

  • Construction managers had elevated prevalences for smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking, and not always using a seatbelt;
  • Because of their important leadership roles, behavior changes among construction managers could have positive effects on the safety and health culture in the construction industry;
  • Carpenters, construction laborers, and roofers all had significantly elevated prevalences for five of the six behaviors (all except short sleep);
  • Roofers, as well as electrical power-line installers and repairers, had significantly elevated prevalences for binge drinking; and
  • Operating engineers, who operate and maintain heavy earthmoving equipment, had very high rates for smokeless tobacco use.

Falls remain the leading cause of work-related deaths in construction, accounting for about one-third of the total number of fatalities in this industry.

Between 2013 and 2016, researchers gathered data from 38 different construction occupations, including laborers, project managers, those in construction trades, and contractors. Workers in 32 states were questioned.

NIOSH researchers stress that targeted interventions as well as health programs could significantly reduce the instance of these behaviors.