Construction

Participating core and specialty program: Safe●Skilled●Ready Workforce

Researchers, insurance companies, and employers utilize NIOSH information in decision-making about designing, structuring, and managing work to reduce illnesses and injuries among construction workers in non-standard work arrangements.

NOTE: Goals in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research.

  Health Outcome Research Focus Worker Population* Research Type
A Respiratory diseases, Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), Fatal and non-fatal injuries from falls, Hearing loss Better characterize risk factors for workers in non-standard work arrangements Vulnerable workers, small businesses Surveillance research
B Respiratory diseases, MSDs, Fatal and non-fatal injuries from falls, Hearing loss, Heat-related illnesses Increase use of existing interventions among workers in non-standard work arrangements Vulnerable workers , small businesses Translation
C Respiratory diseases, MSDs, Fatal and non-fatal injuries from falls, Hearing loss, Heat-related illnesses Develop new cost-effective interventions for workers in non-standard work arrangements Vulnerable workers, small businesses Intervention

* See definitions of worker populations

Activity Goal 7.1.1 (Intervention Research): Conduct intervention studies to develop and assess the cost-effectiveness of new interventions to improve safety and health among construction workers in non-standard work arrangements.

Activity Goal 7.1.2 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to implementing effective safety and health interventions among construction workers in non-standard work arrangements.

Activity Goal 7.1.3 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to better characterize risk factors for construction workers in non-standard work arrangements.

Burden

During the last recession, the construction sector saw a 23% decrease in the number of construction workers [CPWR 2013]. Many workers displaced during the recession are not returning to construction, and an influx of new workers is entering the sector. In 2013, about 1.3 million temporary workers were employed in construction, accounting for nearly 14% of the construction workforce [CPWR 2015]. A growing number of these new entrants have non-standard work arrangements and are new immigrants, or contingent workers. This means that they may belong to one or more groups of workers at disproportionate risk for occupational injury or illness. The construction sector has one of the highest shares of workers in non-standard arrangements [Katz and Kruger 2016].

Workers employed through temporary agencies in 2005 were more likely to be African-American and Hispanic [BLS 2005]. Temporary workers, accounted for roughly 13.3% of the construction workforce from 2011−2013, were more likely to be younger than in the overall construction work force during that period [CPWR 2015]. In 2010, approximately 44% of construction workers had nontraditional work arrangements [CPWR 2015]. About 35% of temporary workers were under age 35 years, compared to less than 30% of permanent construction workers in 2011−2013. Many temporary workers hold multiple jobs, and in 2012 approximately 16% of temporary construction workers were considered poor [CPWR 2015]. Temporary workers are more likely to experience more occupational hazards than permanent workers, including hazards associated with outdoor work, exposure to vapors/gas/dust/fumes, and skin contact with chemical substances [CPWR 2015]. Misclassification as independent contractors can leave temporary workers without access to needed safety and health precautions as well as workers’ compensation.

Respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders, fatal and non-fatal injuries from falls, and hearing loss are particularly high among construction workers and are priorities for construction sector leadership [CPWR 2013]. Many of these hazardous exposures are more common for temporary construction workers compared to their full-time counterparts [CPWR 2015].

Need

Non-standard work arrangements are understudied but increasingly prevalent, and their determinants and health and safety consequences are poorly understood. NIOSH has been assessing quality of work life for a long time and is well-positioned to examine the determinants and effects of work arrangements. Surveillance research is needed to better characterize and track risk factors for construction workers in non-standard work arrangements, as well as the burden suffered by the workers and their families, employers, and society. Translation research is needed to identify and disseminate barriers and aids to implementation of proven effective interventions to reduce health and safety hazards for workers in non-standard work arrangements.

Intervention research is needed to evaluate the determinants and consequences of existing and new work arrangements. The focus of such research would include studying the relationship between product and service quality and safety, the business case for safety, procurement practices, owner and management commitment to safety, selection of contractors and subcontractors, the use of temporary employees and independent contractors, and novel work arrangements in construction and their impact on leading and lagging indicators of safety and health. Newly identified risk factors will provide opportunities for innovative intervention research.

BLS [2005]. News: contingent and alternative employment arrangements. Washington D.C.: Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, pp. 1-20.

CPWR [2013]. The construction chartbook. Fifth Ed. Silver Spring, MD: CPWR- the Center for Construction Research and Training. http://www.cpwr.com/publications/construction-chart-bookExternal

CPWR [2015]. Quarterly data report: temporary workers in the construction industry. Second Quarter. Silver Spring, MD: CPWR- the Center for Construction Research and Training. http://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/Second%20Quarter%202015.pdfCdc-pdfExternal

Katz LF, Krueger AB [2016]. The rise and nature of alternative work arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015. Washington D.C.: National Bureau of Economic Research No. w22667.

https://krueger.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/akrueger/files/katz_krueger_cws_-_march_29_20165.pdfCdc-pdfExternal

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018