Higher Health Risks Among Construction Workers

Source: potowizard/123RF

New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that several behaviors that contribute to higher health risks are more prevalent among construction workers than workers in other industries.

This new study was recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Construction workers are in physically demanding jobs and exposed to many chemical and physical workplace hazards, with falls remaining the leading cause of work-related deaths in construction, accounting for about one-third of the total number of fatalities in this industry.

Previous studies suggested that construction workers who exhibit certain health risk behaviors may be more likely to experience work-related injuries. NIOSH researchers were interested to explore how common health risk behaviors are among this workforce.

The study looked at six health risk behaviors among construction workers compared to workers in other industries. The main findings showed:

  • Smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking, no leisure-time physical activity, and not always using a seatbelt were significantly more prevalent among construction workers than in the general workforce.
  • A sixth health risk behavior, getting less than seven hours of sleep a day, was significantly less prevalent among construction workers as compared to the general workforce.
  • Construction managers had elevated prevalence 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 prevalence 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.
  • Operating engineers, who operate and maintain heavy earthmoving equipment, had very high rates for smokeless tobacco use.

The survey covered 38 different construction occupations, including laborers, project managers, those in construction trades, and contractors, and was conducted by telephone across 32 states, from 2013 to 2016.

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