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Construction research at NIOSH. Reviews of research programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Committee to Review the NIOSH Construction Research Program, National Research Council
Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009 Nov; :1-158
The construction industry is one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, accounting for about 13 percent of the gross domestic product and employing about 11 million workers in 2005. Construction is also one of the most dangerous industries for workers. Hazards for construction workers include working at heights, in excavations and tunnels, on highways, and in confined spaces; exposure to high levels of noise, to chemicals, and to high-voltage electric lines; and the use of power tools and heavy equipment. Significant health risks include hearing loss, silicosis, musculoskeletal disorders, skin diseases, and health effects associated with exposures to lead, asphalt fumes, and welding fumes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has conducted construction-relevant research activities since the 1970s. In 1990, Congress directed NIOSH to develop a comprehensive prevention program directed at health and safety problems affecting construction workers by expanding existing NIOSH activities in areas of surveillance, research, and intervention. During the period studied, 1996 through 2005, the NIOSH Construction Research Program focused on four research goals: reducing the major risks associated with traumatic injuries and fatalities, reducing exposure to health hazards, reducing major risks associated with musculoskeletal disorders, and increasing the understanding of construction industry attributes and factors for improving health and safety outcomes. In conjunction with planned reviews of up to 15 NIOSH research programs, the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences of the National Research Council convened a committee of experts to evaluate the relevance and impact of the NIOSH Construction Research Program. The committee evaluated the relevance of the program in terms of its research priorities and its connection to improvements in the protection of workers in the workplace; it evaluated the impact of the program in terms of its contributions to worker safety and health. The committee was also asked to assess the program's identification and targeting of new research areas, to identify emerging research issues, and to provide advice on ways that the program might be strengthened. NIOSH cannot, on its own, set and enforce research-based standards or practices for the construction industry. These efforts are carried out, respectively, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and by individual contractors, unions, and other entities. Nonetheless the Construction Research Program can be expected to contribute to reductions in construction workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through its research, dissemination of its research results, and transfer to practice. Taking into account a range of external factors beyond the control of the NIOSH Construction Research Program, the committee found that the program has indeed made meaningful contributions to improving construction worker safety and health. The review by this committee was guided by a methodology and framework established previously by a National Academies parent committee (see Appendix A). Using a 5-point scoring scale (with 5 being the highest), the present committee assigned the Construction Research Program a score of 5 for relevance, indicating that the research is in high-priority areas and that NIOSH is significantly engaged in appropriate transfer activities for completed research projects and reported program results. Regarding impact, the committee assigned the program a score of 4, indicating that the research program has made some contributions to end outcomes (worker safety and health) or well-accepted intermediate outcomes. To ensure the continued high level of relevance for the program's research and to enhance the impact of that research on health and safety practices within the construction industry, the committee recommends that research-topractice (R2P) efforts involve individuals trained in or having the experience and skills to create strategic diffusion and social marketing plans for NIOSH research and to evaluate such plans' effectiveness; that consideration be given to having the majority of R2P efforts conducted through the National Construction Center; that high-level attention by NIOSH leadership be given to determining how to provide program resources that are commensurate with a more robust pursuit of the program's goals; that the positions of Construction Program Coordinator and Construction Program Manager both become fulltime positions; that the National Construction Center continue to be used as an important component in NIOSH's Construction Research Program; and that the program establish a closer connection with OSHA and other regulatory and consensus standards organizations that can ensure that the program's research is applied effectively in rule-making efforts.
Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Confined-spaces; Road-construction; Tunnel-workers; Tunneling; Excavation-equipment; Noise; Noise-exposure; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Electricity; Electrical-workers; Electrical-safety; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Hearing-loss; Hearing-conservation; Hearing-protection; Skin-diseases; Skin-disorders; Lead-compounds; Asphalt-fumes; Welding; Construction-Search
Publication Date
Document Type
Book or book chapter
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
Contract-200-2000-00629; Contract-200-2005-10881
Source Name
Construction Research at NIOSH. Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
National Academies Press