NOIRS 1997 Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 1997. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1997 Oct; :29
Construction takes place year 'round in Alaska, and the harsh arctic environment introduces factors that can interfere with worker safety. This study uses injury surveillance data from the Alaska Trauma Registry (ATR) to examine injuries in the construction industry. Data from the ATR for the years 1991 - 1995 was used to characterize the causes of injury in the construction industry in Alaska. The ATR is a statewide, population-based data base that tracks moderate to severe injuries that occur in Alaska. Data is collected retrospectively from hospital medical records at each hospital in Alaska, then sent to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Section of Community Health and Emergency Medical Services to be compiled into the ATR. Occupational injury surveillance data goes through additional data cleaning and coding by personnel at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Alaska Field Station. The ATR only includes those moderate to serious injuries which require hospitalization. The only fatalities that meet the case definition for inclusion into the ATR are those who have been seen and treated in a hospital prior to death. The total number of hospitalized injuries in the construction industry ranked second (n=371) in number only to commercial fishing (n=396). Six (1.6%) of the construction injuries resulted in fatalities. There was a mean of 74 injuries each year in the construction industry ranging from 66-88. Falls lead all other causes of injury, accounting for 198 of the cases. The most common falls are from or out of a structure (67), while using a ladder (52), while using scaffolding (36), from one level to another (18), and slipping or tripping (10). The upper extremities are the most common body region injured followed by the head. The most common injury is a musculoskeletal injury - usually a broken bone. There is no pattern suggesting a seasonal variation to falls. It is not possible to reliably ascertain from ATR abstracts if the fall was directly caused by ice or snow. Previous studies have ranked occupational fatalities in the Alaskan construction industry in the bottom third. However, construction injuries rank second in number of all industries recorded in the ATR. Even though construction continues year round in Alaska, our data show no consistent pattern suggesting an increase of falls when arctic conditions are present. From these data, further research into fall prevention and protection in the Alaskan construction industry is currently underway by a interagency working group in Alaska.