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NIOSH Study Looks at High-Risk Behavior

Monday, July 27, 2020

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New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found that behaviors that are linked to higher health risks are more prevalent in construction workers than other industries.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and includes results from a survey that covered 38 different construction occupations.

According to NIOSH, the surveys were conducted by telephone across 32 states from 2013 to 2016.

The Findings

“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,” NIOSH said in a press release announcing the data.

Rattankun Thongbun / Getty Images

New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found that behaviors that are linked to higher health risks are more prevalent in construction workers than other industries.

“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 behaviors and compared construction workers to other industries. Key findings include:

  • 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;
  • 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 an elevated prevalence for smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking and not always using a seatbelt;
  • Carpenters, construction laborers and roofers all had a significantly elevated prevalence for five of the six behaviors (all except short sleep);
  • Roofers, as well as electrical power-line installers and repairers, had a significantly elevated prevalence for binge drinking; and
  • Operating engineers, who operate and maintain heavy earthmoving equipment, had very high rates for smokeless tobacco use.

Researchers concluded saying, “Due to the high prevalence of some health risk behaviors, construction workers may benefit from interventions to reduce these behaviors, particularly since they are also potentially exposed to workplace hazards.”

Previous Research

While recent NIOSH research briefly mentions the on-the-job hazards, a study last year out of Boston University’s School of Public Health highlighted the high-risk behavior of opioid use as well as suicide rates in relation to workplace injuries. That work was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Sprouting from a previous Boston University study conducted in 2016—concluding that more than 20% of men and women were more likely to die from any cause after experiencing at least a week off work due to a workplace injury—the 2019 article highlighted how roles of suicide and opioids play as major causes of death in correlation to experiencing workplace injuries.

Over the course of the most recent study, researchers looked at 100,806 workers in New Mexico to estimate the association between workplace injury and death. Of the workers included in the study, 36,034 were reported to have experienced injuries causing lost worktime from 1994 through 2000.

In addition to this information, researchers also compiled workers’ compensation data for the six-year period, Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data through 2013 and National Death Index cause of death data through 2017.


Tagged categories: Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Industry surveys; NA; NIOSH; North America; Safety

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