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CONSTRUCTION

construction worker, crane, architect

Activities: NIOSH Funded Research Grants

NIOSH sponsors research and training through its extramural programs, which complement the Institute's intramural programs. More information is available from the NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs.

Safety and Health Interventions In the Construction Industry

The objective of the CPWR Construction Center is to provide an integrated, multidisciplinary program to improve safety and health in the construction industry. This program will (1) build on CPWR's 15-year experience and the current base of knowledge, (2) intensify and accelerate the identification and adoption of evidence-based best practices throughout the industry, and (3) evaluate changes in safety and health outcomes. In addition, the program will provide special emphasis in three areas where performance should be improved: special populations (especially Hispanic), small-to-medium-sized employers, and nontraditional agents for safety and health (e.g., owners/clients, architects and engineers.) The specific aims are to (1) define major safety and health needs and solutions in terms meaningful to industry; (2) maintain, update, and promote best practices, (3) evaluate risk reduction strategies, and (4) evaluate and improve diffusion strategies.

Project Contact: Erich J. Stafford
CPWR
301-578-8500

Hispanic Construction Workers: Medical Expenditures, Fatalities, Injuries

In light of demographic changes in the United States, the construction industry is characterized by a large, young, and quickly growing Hispanic workforce, coupled with a sizeable and persistent difference in occupational fatalities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic construction workers. Protecting the safety and health of Hispanic workers is a critical challenge facing the construction industry. To address the NIOSH research priorities and examine this important focus area in construction safety and health research, we propose to conduct targeted research on this special at-risk population in our next 5-year plan. The specific aims of this project include (1) examining the safety and health status of Hispanic construction workers, (2) identifying disparities in safety and health and utilization of health services among Hispanic construction workers, (3) identifying major socioeconomic and work organization factors contributing to the disparities, and (4) develop intervention strategies. Four large national population-based survey databases will be used for the study, including the March Supplement to the Current Population Survey, the National Health Interview Survey, the Medical Expenditure Panel Study, and the Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The data analyses will be conducted in two parts, descriptive and analytic. In the first part, statistics will be calculated to illustrate the extent and nature of the problems and to test the hypotheses. In the second part, multivariate analyses will be conducted to determine how the independent variables interact and contribute to occupational health and utilization of health services among Hispanic construction workers. This study will provide important information about Hispanic safety and health, help people better understand this issue, and promote the development of interventions to improve safety and health for this sub-population group.

Project Contact: Xiuwen (Sue) Dong
CPWR
301-578-8500

Prevention of Injuries from Nails Guns in Residential Construction

Nail guns are used extensively in residential construction. These tools increase worker productivity; but, increased productivity has come at a price. Injuries from nail guns are one of the most common in residential construction; they can be serious and costly. Apprentice carpenters are at particularly high risk. The primary safety device to prevent unintentional discharges is the trigger mechanism. The more common contact trip design allows nails to be discharged from the tool anytime the nose and the trigger mechanism are both depressed. Data indicate that the majority of injuries could be prevented if the tools had a sequential type trigger mechanism that requires the nose to be depressed before the trigger is pulled for the tool to fire. The International Staple Nail and Tool Association (ISANTA) sponsored an ANSI standard change in May 2003 that calls for shipping most framing guns with sequential trigger, but tools can still be fit with contact trip triggers. In addition, many contact trip tools remain in the workplace. We propose a multi-level study focused on the evaluation of three very different efforts to prevent injuries from use of these tools. Specifically we plan to evaluate, and subsequently improve, current training efforts underway for apprentice carpenters in St. Louis, the only site in the United States with a large, unionized residential workforce. In collaboration with ISANTA, the Carpenters District Council and the Homebuilders Association, we plan to evaluate current safety materials provided by the tool association. At a wider policy, level we will evaluate the impact of the voluntary ANSI standard change over the 5-year time frame. Lastly, because we know this is a barrier to use of sequential trigger tools, we will compare productivity measures using contact trip and sequential trigger nail guns. The scope of work builds on prior active surveillance and collaborations to address prevention of one of the most common acute injury hazards in residential construction. The joining of academic partners, the union, the homebuilders, and the trade association to address a serious safety problem in residential construction is unique.

Project Contact: Hester Lipscomb
Duke University/CPWR
919-286-3232

Construction Workplace Solutions

Construction workers suffer high rates of fatal and nonfatal injuries, occupational illness/cancers, and MSD. In order for contractors or workers/unions to take evidence-based actions to prevent occupational illnesses and reduce MSDs, they must be able to anticipate which tasks are high risk and identify available control options or solutions. An on-line database will be developed that will allow workers and contractors to identify hazards associated with specific construction tasks and provide options for actually controlling those hazards. Participatory research methods and focus groups will be used to identify common tasks and trade-group priority hazards. Technical advisory group reviews and focus groups will be conducted with journeyman apprenticeship instructors from all 15 of the construction trades unions. Multiple, repeated process and outcome evaluation measures will be used. This will include evaluation of e-tool format and use, hazard summary content, solution or control information, and use and user comments. Beta testing and e-mail surveys will draw on a panel of technical reviewers, union leaders, OSHA 500 trained safety instructors, and apprenticeship instructors. Short surveys will be administered to labor leaders at the regional Building Trade Meeting and contractors' associations to evaluate changes in their self-reported use of this tool. Many on-line resources provide information about risk. Preventing injuries and illness requires improved mechanisms for practitioners to access the information they need to control these risks, or to alter practices or processes in a way that solves these problems. Development will parallel the NIOSH workplace solutions small employer database and adapt criteria from the NORA Intervention Effectiveness Team.

Project Contact: James W. Platner
CPWR
301-578-8500 X140

Rutgers University Occupational Training and Education Consortium ( OTEC) Latino Construction Worker Safety and Health Project

The Rutgers University OTEC in collaboration with the N.J. International Laborers Union (LIUNA) and New Labor (NL), a nonprofit membership based organization of immigrant Hispanic workers, will conduct a 3-year study to evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative Spanish language safety and health education and training program for non-union Hispanic day laborers in construction.

This project will leverage the skills and resources of each of these organizations including the particular expertise in construction safety and health offered by LIUNA, OTEC's skills in developing and evaluating worker facilitated, participatory safety and health training programs, and New Labor's experiences in pioneering interactive Spanish language training to develop and mobilize safety and health activists. Specific aims include the following:

  • Adding to the knowledge base about the safety and health needs of Hispanic day laborers through a baseline evaluation that compares union and non-union cohorts of Hispanic construction laborers.
  • Development and delivery of an industry recognized intervention (a Spanish language version of the OSHA 10-hour construction safety and health training program) to a minimum of 200 non-union Hispanic day laborers over a 2-year period.
  • An evaluation of the impact of the intervention.
  • Integration of the safety and health training program with OTEC and New Labor's ongoing safety and health and safety-training activities with the targeted population.
  • Wide dissemination of the training curriculum, evaluation data, and descriptions of the intervention.

Project Contact: Michele Ochsner
Rutgers/CPWR
732-392-3780

Evaluation of Smart Mark Safety and Health Training for Construction Workers

The main objectives of this pilot intervention project are to evaluate trainees who have completed the Smart Mark training program to determine whether impact on knowledge, attitudes, and self-reported practices are statistically significant and lasting. In addition, the project will explore the feasibility of assessing the most recent job safety climate and 3-month self-reported hazard, illness, and injury information. Smart Mark is a hazard-awareness curriculum for the OSHA 10- and 30- hour training program for the members of building trades unions. The unionized construction industry uses approximately 4,000 instructors in joint labor-management training programs at more than 2,000 training centers nationwide. Smart Mark hazard-awareness training is frequently incorporated into the apprenticeship (or pre-apprenticeship) programs of building trades and is presented differently to apprentices and to journeymen. It has been used to train nearly 200,000 workers. CPWR and its subcontractor, the UIC School of Public Health, will work with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada , and the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers to conduct process evaluation of Smart Mark 10-hour training for pre-apprentices and journeymen in the Chicago training centers. The 140 trainees from each of the two centers will then be recruited into an IRB-approved protocol to obtain interviewer-administered baseline and followup information (at 3 and at 18 months) about knowledge, attitudes, practices, most-recent job safety climate, and self-reported illness and injury rates. Because of anticipated attrition, the total sample size is anticipated to be 200. Exploratory analyses will examine differences between trades and various levels of training, and from baseline to followup, in order to determine future sample size needs and critical factors.

Construction remains among the most hazardous of occupations, and both industry and labor are currently expending significant resources to provide training. Examination of the significant effects of the training may help to revise, expand, or otherwise improve both training programs and the measurement of their effects.

Project Contact: Rosemary K. Sokas
University of Illinois /CPWR
312-355-4497

Safety Training and Safety Campaigns Across Three Regions

Construction industries have the third highest fatality rate when compared with other occupations. Although the construction industry comprised only 6% of the workforce in 1999, it accounted for 20% of the fatal occupational injuries across all industry types. Extending from past research and pilot studies with United Association (UA) Locals in three regions, the proposed project will evaluate safety barrier interventions and safety communication campaigns. Specifically, the two major components to the proposed project are (1) to develop, implement, and evaluate training programs for construction workers and contractors designed to alleviate the barriers preventing safe working behavior, and (2) to disseminate the research findings from the first project component to the greater construction community. Union pipefitters and plumbers in three UA Locals and construction contractors that employ union pipefitters and plumbers (contractor representatives) from three geographical regions will participate in all aspects of the project. Activities of the first component involve (1) surveying worker and contractor representatives to identify barriers to safe working behavior considered to be most prevalent and severe, (2) implementing training programs for worker and contractor representatives that address ways to alleviate these barriers, and (3) assessing the effectiveness of these training programs for reducing barriers, increasing safety behaviors, and decreasing injuries. Activities of the second component involve (1) developing the most attractive and effective dissemination channels of safety research findings based on focus groups of worker, contractor, and other safety representatives, (2) tailoring safety campaigns to worker and contractor representatives, and (3) evaluating the effectiveness of the safety communication campaigns for increasing knowledge and awareness about construction safety barriers. Both components of the project will be pilot tested in one region, modified based on pilot test results, and implemented in an incremental fashion across the other two regions.

Project Contact: Peter Y. Chen
Colorado State University/CPWR
970-491-2143

Worker Electrical Pilot Intervention

Between 1992 and 1998, Census of Fatal Occupation Injury data revealed that contact with electrical current caused 1,006 of 7,489 (13.4%) construction industry deaths, and arc flash/blasts caused 17 deaths. The overall objective of this pilot intervention project is to evaluate the effectiveness of worker electrical inspections on construction sites with followup in reducing the number of electrical hazards, the second leading cause of deaths of construction workers. The specific aims are to (1) evaluate the effectiveness of inspections at a construction site by a trained electrician in eliminating electrical hazards and (2) implement twice weekly inspections of a construction site to identify corrected electrical hazards. The research method involves (1) sending an electrician to the 4-day OSHA 309A course, Electrical Standards and Electrical Safe Work Practices,(2) conducting twice weekly electrical inspections of the chosen construction site using a personal digital assistant, (3) transmitting inspection findings to site management, (4) followup by site management to ensure that electrical hazards are corrected, and (5) analyzing the effectiveness of inspections and followup through number and type of electrical hazards identified and time to abate them.

Project Contact: Michael McCann
CPWR
212-481-2569

Dissemination of a Leading Edge Fall Protection System

The rate of fatal falls among ironworkers in 1999 was 68 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The overall goal of this transition research project is to increase the number of steel erection contractors implementing 100% fall protection on construction sites nation-wide by using a Leading Edge Fall Protection System. This system, developed by Capco Steel Inc., has been proven to prevent injuries due to falls from a leading edge. The leading edge of a deck is the unprotected side and the edge of a deck that changes location as additional decking sections are placed. The specific aims of this project are to (1) develop, evaluate, and produce a 20-minute video on ways to install and use the Leading Edge Fall Protection System and train workers in its use, (2) develop and evaluate a companion workbook and checklist of steps to system implementation, (3) pilot the video and workbook with a steel erection contractor, and (4) evaluate the ability of the erection contractor to safely implement the leading edge fall protection system. This pilot translation project, if successful, will be expanded to steel erection contractors nationwide in future years of this cooperative agreement.

Project Contact: Michael McCann
CPWR
212-481-2569

Fall Prevention Training Among Residential Carpenters

The goal of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of fall protection training methods among apprentice carpenters. The project has three aims: (1) to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, including a careful assessment of the content and process of the current fall protection training; (2) to develop and implement changes in fall protection training based on the needs assessment; and (3) to evaluate the effectiveness of the modified training. The project will follow the conceptual framework described by NIOSH for evaluation of strategies to prevent work injuries, moving through organizational and development phases before intervention, collection of outcome measures, analyses, and reporting. We will collect both quantitative and qualitative data to assess the effectiveness of current fall protection training and gaps in current training before planning our curricular changes. Baseline and followup measures will include three major types of data: questionnaires for apprentices, observations of work behaviors, and focus groups. The primary site of the proposed work will be the St. Louis Carpenters' Joint Apprenticeship Program for Greater St. Louis and Vicinity. This 4-year training program has 2,400 actively enrolled apprentice carpenters in a program jointly operated by a building contractors association and the Carpenters District Council (CDC) of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity, the Nation's largest unionized residential carpenter workforce in a single geographic area.

Project Contact: Bradley A. Evanoff
Washington University/CPWR
314-454-8638

Preventing Falls from Construction Ladders

This project seeks to prevent falls from ladders in construction by translating data on epidemiologic risk factors and field assessment hazards into applied preventive interventions. Despite the considerable attention to fall prevention in construction, falls from ladders have received less attention, and the most effective intervention approaches are not yet obvious. This project will progress in two stages focusing on pre-intervention studies to determine modifiable risk factors and then their subsequent translation into intervention programs. The pre-intervention research stage will investigate three specific aims (1) identifying the actual circumstances involved in falls in constructions from portable ladders using a combination of descriptive, coded narrative text data from national surveillance data systems, (2) quantifying the highest risk tasks and other modifiable risk factors for worker falls from ladders using unique case-crossover methods in which injured workers serve as their own controls, and (3) developing audit tools for on-site assessments of the portable ladder practices, including modifying available straight ladder checklists to step ladders. The subsequent implementation stage will focus on two additional specific aims (4) critically reviewing the efficacy of available risk reduction training approaches and ladder design variations and (5) testing multifaceted interventions and measuring effects using an experimental study design. The intervention will focus on targets to reduce risk such as ladder design, job task design, and managerial safety training approaches. Intervention programming will use methods such as worksite audits and jobsite superintendent training to communicate risk reduction information. The intervention messages will include ways to incorporate 10-point safety checklists into work routines to reduce worksite ladder hazards and substituting other equipment for the most hazardous tasks done on ladders. A randomized controlled design that includes cluster randomization and analysis will be used to test intervention effectiveness. Hypotheses to be tested include the efficacy of the intervention on reducing ladder hazards and increasing safety behaviors among job site superintendents and workers.

Project Contact: Melissa Perry
Harvard School of Public Health/CPWR
617-432-1260

Diffusing Ergonomic Innovations in Construction

Ergonomic solutions have been slow to diffuse in the construction industry, even where such solutions have low financial costs and potentially large benefits to workers, contractors, and owners. This proposal seeks to address this paradox by developing and implementing a series of communication and education activities aimed at promoting the use of tools, equipment, materials, and work practices that show promise in reducing ergonomic risk factors within the construction community of the Pacific Northwest. This will be accomplished by applying the insights from successful community health initiatives to develop an empirically grounded methodology to match diffusion efforts to the type of persons and organizations most likely to adopt specific ergonomic innovations. We have identified two specific validated ergonomic improvements and have roughly assessed the current level of use of these innovations. Following confirmation of these assessments, the research team will initiate communication and promotional activities with trade contractors, safety professionals, trade union representatives, journeymen, and apprentices as appropriate. Specific diffusion approaches will be tailored to specific segments of the construction community who are identified as likely next adopters of these ergonomic innovations. Vendors of the chosen ergonomic innovations have been enlisted to collaborate in this project and objects of the communication strategies will be targeted at trade shows, jobsites, apprenticeship training centers and through existing construction contractors and associations. To assess the impact of the diffusion activities resulting from these efforts, the research team will conduct follow-up surveys and interviews with individual workers and companies that participate in these programs as part of its comprehensive evaluation of the project.

Project Contact: Steven Hecker
University of Oregon /CPWR
541-346-2788

Masonry Ergonomics Best Practices

The specific aims of this project are to (1) catalogue existing tools, materials and work practices in masonry that, if used, could reduce the risk of WMSDs among masons and mason tenders, (2) identify the way decisions are made regarding use of these tools, materials, and work practices, (3) identify gaps in existing data on specific interventions, (4) document effectiveness of specific interventions, and (5) disseminate best practices into the masonry industry.

Masons have a particularly high risk of developing low back pain and low back disorders; among working masons, 70% report on-going back pain. Primary risk factors for lower back injury are the weight of bricks or blocks, the frequency of lifting, the height from which the block is picked up, the height at which the block is placed, the height of the mortar stand, the distance of the block from the worker's body, and degree and frequency of twisting involved. Research has identified changes in materials, work practices, and tools that reduce the masons' exposure to back, shoulder, and wrist stress; for example studies measuring the compressive load on the lumbar spine show a decrease in mean and peak spinal compression at lower brick/block weights, while others document successful technical solutions to the work posture problems associated with masonry work. This project will identify barriers to using best practices, develop a model intervention program, pilot the program in three regions of the United States, and refine the interventions based on the pilot. We will then enroll contractors into intervention and control groups and monitor use of best practices with regular audits. The audit will collect information about how effectively the interventions are being used, and that information will be used in a model to determine how much of a change in ergonomic stress has occurred. Final analysis will incorporate the cost and benefits of use of practices.

Project Contact: Laura Welch
CPWR
301-578-8500 X105

Evaluating Interventions for Overhead Drilling

For construction workers, repeated overhead drilling into concrete or metal is one of the most physically demanding tasks at work; a task associated with elevated rates of shoulder pain and disorders. The purpose of this study is to develop and evaluate various interventions to assist with overhead drilling in order to reduce shoulder load. In Phase 1 of the study, three assist devices will be used over 1 day in the field by 20 construction workers. The devices will be modified to address identified limitations, and the evaluation and modification process will be repeated. In Phase II, the best two devices will be evaluated against the usual method for overhead drilling by 120 construction workers when they perform 3 days of overhead drilling in the field. The construction trades studied will be plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal workers. Outcome measures will be shoulder pain rating, shoulder posture, electromyography of shoulder and forearm muscles, tool vibration, device usability and work productivity. A cost-benefit analysis will be performed. In Phase III, the study findings will be disseminated nationwide. This phase will involve assembling a Dissemination Advisory Committee that will design and oversee the implementation of a dissemination plan directed to construction workers who perform overhead drilling, related contractors and tool purchasers, tool manufacturers, and construction safety and health professionals. It is anticipated that the study will identify overhead drilling interventions that will reduce shoulder pain and shoulder load and improve productivity and effectively disseminate this information nationwide.

Project Contact: David Rempel
University of California - San Francisco/CPWR
510-231-5720

Tools and Programs for Improving Occupational Health Conditions in Construction (TAPs)

The overall aim of this component of the Tools and Programs for Improving Occupational Health Conditions in Constructions (TAPs) project is to reduce silica exposure to bricklayers who cut block or brick with masonry saws and tuck pointers who grind mortar joints with angle grinders, through an intervention that leads to the systematic adoption of silica control programs by masonry contractors. The intervention will be developed and implemented jointly with key stakeholders, including labor and management as represented by the Labor/Management Craft Committee of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC), Local 1 in Philadelphia and Local 5 in New Jersey, and the International Masonry Institute (IMI), which is a labor/management training organization of the IUBAC and the contractors who employ its members. IMI offers design and technical assistance to the industry. The specific aims of the project are as follows:

  • Evaluate and describe commercially available engineering controls for reducing silica exposure among workers who work with masonry saws to cut brick and block and with angle grinders to remove mortar.
  • Assess the current use of specific control systems for these tools among masonry contractors.
  • Evaluate the factors that enhance or impede contractor use of specific controls.
  • Develop and implement strategies for enhancing contractor adoption of the control systems identified as effective and viable.
  • Assess the impact of these strategies on actual adoption of controls by contractors.
  • Present the results in a form that can be adopted by other researchers and stakeholders as a guide for diffusing engineering controls for health hazards into the construction industry.

Project Contact: Pam Susi
CPWR
856-985-9300

TAPS: Strategies for Diffusing Control Technologies for Masonry Tools

Hunter College will collaborate with CPWR in this intervention project which employs previously developed tools for exposure assessment and control of health hazards. The project is designed to evaluate programs for integrating occupational disease prevention into construction work practices. To help accomplish this Hunter College will collaborate with CPWR on the following specific aims:

  • Collect quantitative exposure data for exposure hazards, with emphasis on introducing and evaluating engineering controls, for manganese, hexavalent chromium and silica (agents that are currently the subject of rule-making or for which data is lacking).
  • Develop and evaluate health hazard prevention programs including a contractor certification program for reducing silica exposure to Pointer/Caulker/Cleaner (PCC) workers through an intervention that will develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a contractor certification program recognized by owners, workers and their unions, regulators and insurance carriers, that leads to the systematic adoption of silica control programs by masonry restoration contractors. This effort will be carried out jointly with key stakeholders, including labor and management as represented by the Labor/Management Craft Committee of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), and by the International Masonry Institute. This component of the proposed research project has the following objectives: greater use of engineering controls among PCC contractors to reduce silica exposure, reduced silica exposure among workers of participating contractors; PCC workers and employers trained in the recognition and control of silica hazards; an increased market advantage for responsible contractors who use silica control measures.

Project Contact: Mark Goldberg
Hunter College - CUNY/CPWR
212-481-7555

Evaluation of the Efficacy and Effectiveness of Silica and Noise Controls on Concrete-Cutting Tools

Although significant silica and noise exposures have been documented in construction in general, and concrete finishing and demolition in particular, few controls are evident on typical construction sites. Reduction or elimination of exposures to silica and noise in construction requires the availability of controls that are technically proven in a controlled evaluation and regularly used. The objective of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of specific silica and noise controls in the controlled environment of a union apprenticeship-training center. The most efficacious controls will then be introduced into worksites where the barriers encountered during their implementation and ongoing use will be examined.

This study proposes to evaluate the efficacy of a range of dust and noise controls used on small powered tools including portable concrete (chop) saws, walk behind concrete saws and jackhammers, and heavy equipment such as pneumatic hammers (hoe-rams), pulverizers, and rock crushers. The technical ability (efficacy) of silica and noise controls to reduce exposures will be measured under controlled conditions at the Operating Engineers and Laborers Training Centers. Case studies of implementation will collect qualitative and quantitative data on barriers to acceptance and continued use of these technical controls in a variety of construction settings.

Project Contact: Susan Woskie
University of Massachusetts Lowell/CPWR
978-934-3265

COPD Risks Among Construction Workers

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major public health problem with an estimated 8.5% of the U.S. population reporting prevalent disease. COPD causes more than 124,000 deaths per year. Occupational exposures are estimated to cause approximately 15% of all COPD cases, and construction workers have been shown to be at significantly increased risk. However, specific construction worker exposures contributing to the risk of COPD have not been adequately identified nor studied. We propose to study occupational and nonoccupational risk factors for COPD among a large cohort of sheet metal workers participating in the lung disease surveillance program funded by the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT). The proposed research represents a unique opportunity to study COPD risk factors among construction workers at a very modest cost. Specifically, we will

  • Design and field test a self-administered interview questionnaire to elicit detailed information concerning occupational and nonoccupational exposures and COPD risk factors experienced by sheet metal workers.
  • Integrate the exposure questionnaire into the ongoing SMOHIT lung disease surveillance program. Data will be collected over a 4-year period and will provide information concerning exposures, respiratory symptoms, chest X-rays, and pulmonary function on a cohort of more than 7,000 sheet metal workers.
  • Conduct both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in order to evaluate occupational and nonoccupational COPD risk factors among sheet metal workers. These analyses should have excellent statistical power as more than 500 COPD cases are anticipated to be available for analyses.

The proposed research responds to the several areas included in the occupational health component of the CPWR request: Priority agents to be addressed by this research include silica, welding fumes, man-made mineral fibers, and asbestos as risk factors for COPD. This research also will better characterize risk, leading to the development of COPD prevention strategies and research.

Project Contact: John M. Dement
Duke University/CPWR
919-286-3232

Portable Hearing Conservation for Construction

This project is aimed at addressing an ever growing but generally ignored need in the construction industry: Portability for Workers and Data for Hearing Conservation. Build It Smart will build on their current project in Washington State that requires participating workers to complete Audiometric testing and training once each year. Build It Smart will create a body of support that will cause the institutionalization of comprehensive Hearing Conservation for the construction industry. Build It Smart plans include facilitating CAOHC certification for at least 12 additional Training Center Trainers, facilitating the installation of at least 3 additional Hearing Test Booths in three different Training Centers, promoting and delivering 4-hour Hearing Conservation Training for Construction Supervisors and Workers and 12 session Toolbox training for site safety officers and trainers, providing technical and instructional assistance to organizations and regions beyond Washington State, designing and developing a task-related Noise Level Data Base allowing participating workers and contractors access to sound level data for those tasks most common to the industry, convincing regulators that reliance on existing substantially similar data is better than current practices of doing nothing, promoting and delivering Hearing Conservation Awareness training to the Community and Technical College Trade Prep Course, convening industry leaders from labor, management, research & regulatory organizations and manufacturers and suppliers of hearing protectors and noise reduction products to develop strategies for the perpetual funding of this program by the adoption of fee for service or similar means.

Project Contact: Jessie P. Brown
Build It Smart/CPWR
360-596-9200

Hearing Loss Prevention in Road Construction

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the best understood and most readily preventable occupational illnesses. Yet, it remains a major occupational health problem, particularly in construction. The Washington State OSHA Program (WISHA) is planning to conduct a noise in road construction initiative to address compliance in that industry with the WISHA hearing loss prevention and noise rule. The initiative began in 2004, and will continue actively for 2 years. This initiative provides a time-limited opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of a broadly based intervention by a regulatory agency, intended to reduce the risk for a major occupational illness in a highly affected industry. We propose to conduct a 4- year longitudinal surveillance (prospective cohort) study of company policies and practices and worker perceptions and behavior related to hearing loss prevention at road construction companies during and after the WISHA initiative. The study will determine whether the initiative is associated with positive changes (improvement) among road construction companies and workers and whether any such changes persist after the initiative.

Project Contact: William E. Daniell
University of Washington/CPWR
206-685-3160

Costs of Occupational Injuries in Construction

The objectives of the proposed study are to (1) update, document, and widely disseminate PIRE's estimates of the medical, work loss, and intangible costs of occupational injury and illness in the construction trades, (2) provide a tool that companies and unions can use to estimate their costs of occupational injury and illness in construction, (3) jointly with CPWR staff and grantees, apply the injury cost estimates in order to develop and disseminate a series of cost-outcome analyses of occupational safety and health interventions in construction, and (4) provide training and technical assistance in use of the cost estimates through PIRE's 10-year-old Safety Economics Resource Center.

Project Contact: Ted R. Miller
Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation/CPWR
301-755-2727

Safety and Health Surveillance

It is critical to monitor national trends in construction safety and health and to provide the basis for targeting and evaluation in order to prevent the occurrence of the most serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Also, because of the complex nature of the construction industry, defining its key characteristics enables researchers to measure the effects of the changing industrial structure and build upon their initial research on construction safety and health. Furthermore, intervention and translation strategies to prevent and minimize workplace hazards need to take into account socially-predicted differential patterns of employment and job placement that adversely affect workplace safety and health.

This project will directly address the safety and health of more than 10 million construction workers. Two specific aims for the proposed project are to (1) analyze impacts of changes in industry and demographics on construction safety and health through continuous surveillance, focusing on small employers, Hispanic workers, the aging workforce, and costs of injuries and illnesses and (2) translate our findings through our large consortium nationwide and internationally, including academic researchers in a variety of disciplines, affiliates of the Building and Construction Trades Department, government agencies (NIOSH, BLS, IRS, and the Census Bureau), construction contractor associations, and the International Construction Roundtable. We will publish the fourth edition of the Construction Chart Book , a unique reference book on construction safety and health in the nation. We will use various large, nationally representative surveys on safety and health, demographics, industry, economics, medical expenditures, and workers' compensation data for our analyses. The CPWR Data Center has performed surveillance of construction safety and health for more than 10 years. This experience and expertise in analyzing large-scale datasets will permit us to complete the proposed study.

Project Contact: Xiuwen (Sue) Dong
CPWR
301-578-8500 X128

Analysis of FACE Reports

The Data Center has abstracted information from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) and developed a numeric format database. The FACE database contains 450 records and more than 80 variables from both State and the NIOSH in-house reports across 27 States between 1988 and 2003. The Data Center has analyzed the database and initially found that safety standards and safety equipment are the most frequent recommendations made by OSHA inspectors, followed by the need for additional training. Overall, only less than 9% of victims were reported using safety equipment, and victims who had received safety training were more likely to use safety equipment than those without such training. Additional analyses are underway.

Project Contact: Janie Gittleman
CPWR
301-578-8500 X107

Utilization of Health Services among Hispanic Construction Workers

In light of demographic changes in the United States, the construction industry is characterized by a large, young, and quickly growing Hispanic workforce, coupled with a sizable and persistent difference in occupational fatalities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic construction workers. Protecting the safety and health of Hispanic workers is a critical challenge facing the construction industry. To address the NIOSH research priorities and examine this important focus area in construction safety and health research, we propose to conduct targeted research on this special at-risk population in our next 5-year plan. The specific aims of this project include (1) examine the safety and health status of Hispanic construction workers, (2) identify disparities in safety and health and utilization of health services among Hispanic construction workers, (3) identify major socioeconomic and work organization factors contributing to the disparities, and (4) develop intervention strategies to reduce/eliminate the disparities and improve the safety and health of Hispanic construction workers overall. Four large national population-based survey databases will be used for the study, including the March Supplement to the Current Population Survey, the National Health Interview Survey, the Medical Expenditure Panel Study, and the Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The data analyses will be conducted in two parts, one descriptive and one analytic. In the first part, statistics will be calculated to illustrate the extent and nature of the problems and to test the hypotheses. In the second part, we will conduct multivariate analyses to determine how the independent variables interact and contribute to occupational health and utilization of health services among Hispanic construction workers. This study will provide important information about Hispanic safety and health, help people better understand this issue, and promote the development of interventions to improve safety and health for this subpopulation group.

Project Contact: Xiuwen (Sue) Dong
CPWR
301-578-8500 X128

Program Project to Support Construction Safety and Health

The long-term objective of the proposed Center for Innovation in Construction Safety and Health is to lead large-scale work-related accident, injury, and fatality reduction in small enterprises in the United States. Specific aims are to be an energetic, productive, accessible, collaborative, cohesive team of researchers, who will develop strategic partnerships with a diverse array of construction industry stakeholders; to conduct exploratory, prevention/intervention and translation projects that will be innovative, integrated, and multidisciplinary, characterized by a valid and unifying underlying theoretical framework; to actively partner with NIOSH/CDC and its intramural and extramural research programs to achieve a minimum of 30% injury and fatality reduction in the United States by 2010; and to be benchmarked for best practices associated with our exploratory, prevention/intervention and translation projects. The science of socio-technical systems theory will guide multidisciplinary integration. Through its actions and activities, the Center will sincerely value and serve the end user and their families and friends, the American construction worker. The Center will seek and apply benchmarking best practices from other industries (e.g. mining), other countries (e.g., Australia , United Kingdom ) and from large construction companies. Human-centered technological innovation will result in a safe and satisfying work site. The Center will value and involve its strategic partners through such vehicles as the Advisory Board and our Worker Protection Panel and NIOSH will be valued and involved as a full partner in the achievement of the Center's vision. The organizational design for the Center is a project x product matrix with projects nested within project type (i.e., exploratory, prevention/intervention, translation). The technical cluster leads comprise the leadership team and ensure that all relevant system factors are considered throughout a given project's life-cycle. They and remaining PIs form the Internal Advisory Committee. In this manner, the Center helps build a body of knowledge about the interrelationships among the construction system subsystems, interfaces and factors, enabling more effective and widespread prevention, intervention and translation. Distribution of projects proposed to demonstrate the comprehensive capability of the proposed Center and to validate its aims and objectives is approximately as follows: 21%-Exploratory, 31%-Prevention/Intervention and 25%-Translation.

Project Contact: Brian Kleiner
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
540-231-4926

Decision Support Tool for Ergonomic Construction

Epidemiologic evidence highlights the large and ongoing problem of occupational injury and illness in residential construction. Current approaches to safety are often haphazard or poorly organized for the small contractors who perform most residential home building. There is an increasing trend toward premanufacturing, specifically panelization (pre-assembled walls). This centralization of design provides an opportunity to promote ergonomics in the design process, a proactive approach that is likely to be more effective than traditional reactive efforts at the job site. A body of evidence exists for similar approaches in manufacturing, and we plan to take advantage of this, as well as the diverse expertise represented in the project investigators, to develop a decision support tool for construction designers. This tool will incorporate a variety of ergonomic risk assessment methods. Along with the tool itself, we will obtain the opinions and views of actual construction designers, providing necessary information about how such a tool can best be implemented. We will also conduct formal ergonomic assessments of selected frame carpentry activities (panelized wall erection), thereby quantifying the risks associated with these activities under a variety of panelization alternatives. With these data as input, we will develop, test, and refine the decision support tool. Upon completion of this project, we will provide the first formal evidence of the construction designers' perceptions of their roles in considering ergonomics during construction design. We will provide new evidence on whether and to what extent frame carpentry using panelized wall erection imposes exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Finally, we will provide, through the internet, the decision support tool for free use by construction designers.

Project Contact: Nussbaum
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
540-231-4926

Noise and Vibration Control of Drills

Pneumatic percussive power tools are extensively used in construction, industrial, and mining sites. They are one of the noisiest pieces of machinery in the construction industry generating noise levels well above 110 dBA. These levels of noise are well beyond the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 85 dBA set by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the 90 dBA of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition, the vibrations from these hand held power tools lead to hand-arm vibration (HAV) disorders such as pain, numbing, and blanching of the fingers commonly known as white finger. A number of approaches have been developed over the years to reduce noise and vibration typically using mufflers for noise control and anti-vibration gloves ~and handles for vibration control. Thought noise and vibration control techniques have been developed, they are not sufficiently effective. For example, mufflers provide around 10 dB of reduction resulting in still very hazardous noise levels. Anti-vibration gloves and handles provide reduction of high frequency vibration, i.e. > 100 Hz. However, HAV disorders are caused by the vibration at the low operating frequency of the tool, i.e. -20-35 Hz. Thus, there is still a paramount need to improve these machines. Therefore, the long term goal of this project is to improve the noise and vibration characteristics of pneumatic percussion tools for the good long-term health of the operators. The specific hypotheses are that: (a) state-of-the-art noise and vibration materials and control technologies can be effectively implemented on these power tools to yield a better and safer work environment for the operators of these machines and (b) the implementation of these control techr1ologies will not adversely affect the performance of these tools.

Project Contact: Burdisso
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
540-231-4926

Safety of Nighttime Construction Activities

Night construction has increased dramatically over the last few years, especially in highway construction. However, it poses unique risks for construction since night-time illumination has not been effectively deployed, resulting in decreased visibility for workers and motorists. Also, more motorists are likely to be fatigued or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, increasing their propensity to accidents. According to national statistics, about 60% of all work zone fatalities occur at night. Our long-term goal is to evaluate safety issues in nighttime construction as a necessary prerequisite to the development of strategies to improve safety, quality, and productivity of nighttime construction operations on highways and in other sectors of construction. This 5-year research study will comprise 3 major components: (1) exploratory component-Years 1 and 2, (2) intervention/prevention component-Years 3 and 4, and (3) translation component-Year 5. The specific aims of the study are fourfold: (1) review current production and safety practices contractors use during nighttime construction and maintenance to examine issues related to safety, efficiency, and quality construction during nighttime operations (Year 1 ); (2) collect and analyze lighting and construction production and safety data from construction sites where nighttime operations have been prevalent (Years 1 and 2 ); (3 ) develop models for improved lighting and other strategies on such sites, explore opportunities for implementing them in ongoing and future construction projects, and run pilot studies testing the models for validating possible relationships between improving such strategies and construction safety (Years 3 and 4 ); and (4) translate results from the research environment into the construction industry based on the outcomes of the models developed and pilot studies (Year 5). Our partners in this research project include the Indiana Department of Transportation, Walsh Construction, Rieth Riley Construction (heavily involved in night-time construction on highways), and F.A. Wilhelm Construction (involved in nighttime operations on commercial, institutional, and industrial projects).

Project Contact: Dulcy Abraham.
Purdue University
765-494-2239

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  • Page last updated: October 30, 2012
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