Because of the nature of the tasks they perform on a daily basis, construction workers are at a high risk of developing work-related muskuloskeletal disorders (WMSDs) also known as soft tissues injuries.
65 construction workers died from unintentional overdose while on the job in the US in 2018 compared to respectively 48, 32, 27, 18, 17, 7 and 7 in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. These deaths represent more than a quarter of the 305 overdose fatalities at workplaces recorded for all industries in the US in 2018. The construction industry is one of the most affected industries by the opioid crisis in the US.
In its recently published Quarterly Data Report, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) provides an in-depth analysis of the dramatic increase of unintentional overdose fatalities on american construction sites.
HIGH NUMBER OF UNINTENTIONAL OVERDOSE FATALITIES ON CONSTRUCTION SITES IN THE NORTH EAST REGION
The crane accident that killed 4 people at a Google office project in Seattle and the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel project that resulted in 3 deaths were among the most horrendous construction accidents that occur last year in the US. While these major tragedies were all over the news, crane accidents and partial building collapses occurred all over the country last year. A partial collapse of a building in Cinicinnati, a crane collapse in Dallas. Most big cities in the US had similar tragedies including New York. Last August one man died and five were injured in a building collapse (see previous blog). A crane company was temporarily banned from the city after two consecutive crane accidents including one resulting in the death of a construction worker (see previous blog).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 175 people are injured in crane accidents and 44 die on average every year in the US
Most crane accidents are caused by human errors. Many of them such as the one that occurred at the Google site in Seattle or the one that killed a worker in New York occur during the assembling or the disassembling of the crane. The assembly/dissassembly director is in charge of making sure that the manufacturer guidelines and all safety procedures are followed during this dangerous operation. While OSHA introduced new regulations last April, these regulations are mostly related to improving crane operator’s knowledge and training.
Cell phone usage on construction sites may increases the risk of accidents. While there are no specific rules when it comes to cellphone usage on a construction site, it is the employer’s responsibility to keep employees safe and to train them about cell phone usage while working on an active construction site.
Headphones are not OSHA approved ear protective devices
While OSHA requires construction workers to use ear protective devices when the noise on a site exceeeds permissible noise exposure limits, they are not talking about headphones or earbuds. While some manufacturers are advertising that their headphones are OSHA approved or OSHA compliant, OSHA warned in a recent letter that these claims are misleading. Listening to music when working on an active construction site covers environmental sounds and increases the risk for construction workers to be struck by hazards while performing their work.
Construction workers and extraction workers not only have a high risk of getting injured on the job but also they are the most at risk of getting addicted to drugs such as non prescription opioid, cocaine and marijuana according to a recent study published by NYU. The study looked at 290,000 workers belonging to 13 different industries and found out that 3.4% of construction workers were misusing painkillers compared to a 2% average for the rest of the professions.
The study confirms that the opiate crisis is a major problem in the construction industry but also found that construction workers were also consuming more marijuana and cocaine than other workers. The study links the increased risk of addictions to all 3 substances to the precarious condition of employment sustained by construction workers and found that absenteeism is a trigger for increased used of all 3 drugs. The study also found that employers with written drug policies have less workers dealing with cocaine addiction and employers using drug testing had less workers using marijuana.
Drug addiction treatments not proposed by employers
Since 2011 the number of construction workers who died in a fall accident increased by 45% according to the recent report “Trends of Fall Injuries and Prevention in the Construction Industry” released by the The Center for Construction Research and Training.
The report focuses mostly on data from 2011 to 2017 and found that despite a slow down in construction accident fatalities between 2016 and 2017, the number of deaths related to fall accidents continued to rise. 389 construction workers fell to their death in 2017 compared to 388 in 2016.
Among the 389 fall fatalities, 367 were to a lower level. Falls from roofs are the most common and account for approximately one third of the fall fatalities. Falls from ladders are the second most common causes of fall fatalities and account for approximately a quarter of them. All in all falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds account for more than 70% of all falls to a lower level.
Construction workers who are working in trenching and excavation are exposed to extremely dangerous hazards resulting most of the time from collapse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 130 hard hats died in trenching and excavation accidents between 2011 and 2016.
Half of these fatalities occurred between 2015 and 2016.
Among the 130 dead workers, 104 were working for the private construction industry and among them 40 died at industrial places and premises, 39 died at private residence sites and 21 died at streets or highways construction sites.
The leading cause of construction workers deaths are falls. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a brochure with information on how employers and construction workers can better prevent fall injuries and deaths. Every year in the US more than 31o workers die and more than 10,350 are injured after falling from heights. Workers on roofs, workers on ladders and workers on scaffolds have the highest risk of getting injured in a fall. According to statistics from the US Department of Labor, in 2016, 124 workers died after falling from a roof, 104 of them died after falling from a ladder and 60 of them died after falling from a scaffold.
Roofers have the most dangerous occupation
81% of people dying after falling from a roof are construction workers. Most common factors contributing to this fatal accidents are inexperience, lack of fall protection, no safety harness, fall protection system not proprely installed, working alone, bad weather conditions. Falls can be prevented by implementing a serious fall protection program, making sure workers all have proper safety equipment and are proprely trained to use it,inspecting fall equipment, using proper anchorage, using buddy system and monitoring weather conditions
887 workers lost their life after falling at their job sites in 2017 according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the highest number of fall deaths ever recorded by the BLS since the agency started to track these numbers almost 30 years ago. Fall fatalities account for 17% of all job-related fatalities and 40% of all construction job-related fatalities.
The most at risk are often construction workers with little training and experience who have been hired to work on construction sites after the recent boom in construction led to a labor force shortage in the industry. 60% of construction workers who died in a fall in 2017 were working for small companies (1 to 10 workers). As a comparison small construction companies only hire a third of the workforce in the construction industry in the US. Small companies are often hired for residential construction, a sector where fatal falls more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. Hispanic workers are the most at risk of dying in a fall accident. Language barrier, little training and also the fear of immigration authorities preventing undocumented workers to report dangerous conditions to OSHA are among the factors that led Hispanic workers to perform some of the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry.
Fall related violations are the most common OSHA violations
The leading cause of non fatal personal injuries among construction workers is Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Construction work is physically demanding and involves manual material handling that requires construction workers to effectuate tasks such as carrying, pushing, lifting, lowering or holding heavy material or equipment. As a result construction workers are prone to soft tissues injuries. Strains and sprains are common as well as more serious injuries to the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments, the nerves, the cartilages and the disks. Not only musculoskeletal disorders can be extremely painful but they also force the worker to stop working and therefore reducing his income. It is also a burden for the employer in terms of productivity. Healthy workers keeps costs low and productivity high for contractors. Therefore incorporating ergonomics on a construction site is a win win situation for both workers and contractors.
Helping contractors address ergonomic hazards and reduce workers risk for musculoskeletal disorders
This afternoon the Center For for Construction Research and Training is offering a free webinar that will look at how to Incorporate Ergonomics into a Construction Safety Management Program. Presented by Ann Marie Dale, Associate Professor, Washington University School of Medicine, the seminar will introduce participants to available tools, equipment and work processes that are available to reduce the physical demand of the construction workers job. She will explain how contractors can include these tools and techniques in the day to day activities of a construction site and promote a culture of safety on the construction site. Dr Dale has over 30 years of experience in the clinical treatment of work-related upper extremity conditions and in worksite based prevention of musculoskeletal disorders.