Construction: six health risk behaviours
US research published in 2020 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found that several behaviours that contribute to higher health risks — such as smoking and binge drinking — are more prevalent among construction workers than workers in other industries.
Construction work can be physically demanding, with workers exposed to many chemical and physical workplace hazards, such as falls, which account for about one-third of the total number of fatalities in this industry. Previous studies suggested that construction workers who exhibit certain health risk behaviours may be more likely to experience work-related injuries. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers investigated how common health risk behaviours are among this workforce.
Six health risk behaviours
Researchers looked at six health risk behaviours among construction workers compared to workers in other industries: smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking, no leisure-time physical activity, not always using a seatbelt and getting less than seven hours of sleep a day. Of the the health risk behaviours studied, findings revealed that the first five were more prevalent among construction workers than in the general workforce, while the sixth health risk behaviour — getting less than seven hours of sleep a day — was less prevalent among construction workers compared to the general workforce.
Construction managers also had elevated prevalences for smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking and not always using a seatbelt. Due to their leadership roles, behaviour changes among construction managers could have positive effects on the safety and health culture in the construction industry, the research suggests. Carpenters, construction labourers and roofers also had elevated prevalences for five of the six behaviours (except short sleep). The study found that roofers and electrical powerline installers and repairers had elevated prevalences for binge drinking. Operations engineers, who operate and maintain earthmoving equipment, had high rates for smokeless tobacco use.
Data and recommendations
The research data was drawn from a US-based survey, conducted by telephone across 32 states from 2013 to 2016, and covered 38 construction occupations, including labourers, project managers, those in construction trades and contractors. Due to the prevalence of some health risk behaviours, researchers believe that construction workers would benefit from targeted interventions and health programs specific to their occupation, particularly as they are also exposed to workplace-specific hazards. Findings from the study — titled ‘Health risk behavior profile of construction workers, 32 States, 2013–2016’ — were published in 2020 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
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