NIOSH Finds High Prevalence of Risky Behavior in Construction
Construction workers are significantly more likely than workers in other industries to exhibit behaviors that contribute to higher health risks, according to a study by NIOSH researchers that appeared in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study, conducted from 2013 through 2016, involved a telephone survey of 38 different construction occupations among workers in 32 states. When compared to the general workforce, construction workers were found to be significantly more likely to smoke, use smokeless tobacco, and participate in binge drinking; and significantly less likely to habitually wear a seat belt while driving and engage in physical activity during leisure time. The other behavior NIOSH studied, getting fewer than seven hours of sleep, was significantly less prevalent among construction workers than the general workforce. The construction occupations covered in the study included laborers, project managers, contractors, and others. A NIOSH press release about the study suggested that changes in behavior among managers could have positive effects on the safety and health culture in the construction industry. Other recent research has highlighted health and safety issues among construction workers. According to Barbara Epstien, a certified industrial hygienist at the Oregon-Columbia Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, the “tough-guy” culture of construction workers and the high-pressure environment combine to create a “perfect storm of risk.” CDC data indicates that the construction and extraction occupational group had the highest male suicide rate among all occupational groups in 2012 and 2015.