- Researchers at the Center for Construction Research and Training in Silver Spring, MD, have released the results of a study that found U.S. construction workers continue to face a higher average risk of incurring a musculoskeletal disorder than all other industries combined, according to Reuters.
- Study leader Xiuwen Sue Dong told Reuters that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), which cost a total of $46 million in 2014 wages, were a result of the bending and twisting common in many construction activities, along with overwork and overexposure to vibrations.
- Back injuries, the study found, were the most common WMSDs (40%), with incidents involving older workers and those who had been on the job for more than five years on the rise.
The number of WMSD-related injuries fell significantly from 1992 (55,000) to 2014 (18,000), but Dong chalked that up to better training and awareness initiatives, as well as changes in Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordkeeping requirements and even underreporting by employers. In that same time period, however, days away from work because of WMSDs increased from eight to 13. That statistic, Dong said, could be an indication that an older construction workforce was taking more time to recover from these wear-and-tear type injuries.
Researchers said the key takeaway from the report is that employers should stress on-the-job ergonomic solutions. Other experts also suggested removing hazards when possible and training workers on how to complete job site tasks, such as lifting heavy objects, more safely.
According to OSHA, long-time construction workers can present with WMSD's in the legs, arms, hips, neck and back that cause long-term pain, which can remain even after leaving the industry. The repetitive stress from using common construction tools can also result in conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Raynaud's Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Carpet Layers' Knee and degenerative disc disease. An improvement in tool design has taken some of the pressure off workers' bodies, but OSHA suggests proper training and constant job site hazard analysis as a vital method of reducing injuries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in October that non-fatal, private-sector construction injuries in 2015 were at a rate of 3.5 per 100 workers, a 0.1% drop from 3.6 workers in 2014. Despite the slight dip in the rate, the number of recorded injuries and illnesses increased 1.9% from 2014 due to the increase in the construction workforce. The rate of injuries and illnesses in the construction industry outpaced that of the nation in general, which saw 3 injury or illness cases per 100 workers.
New technology offerings are seeking to help track worker movement and ensure that employees are operating safely on the job site. Wearables have been developed to track trips and falls, detect proximity to high voltage, measure body temperature, perspiration and heart rate, alert users of behavior that could indicate drowsiness or attention deficit and more.