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Are Construction Workers More Prone to Health Risk Behaviors?

In July of 2020, United States federal agency The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a study entitled “Health Risk Behavior Profile of Construction Workers, 33 States, 2013 to 2016” in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — a monthly medical journal published on behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In this study, researchers Winifred L. Boal, Jia Li, Xiuwen Sue Dong, and Aaron Susell compared the prevalence of six health risk behaviors among construction workers with workers in other industries using data from 32 states collected in the 2013 to 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). What these researchers found was extremely disheartening.

A number of risk behaviors, including smoking, binge drinking, and operating a vehicle without a seatbelt, were significantly more prevalent for construction workers compared with workers in other industries. This is concerning as previous studies have suggested that any workers that exhibit these health risk behaviors, particularly construction workers, are much more likely to experience work-related injuries. In this article, we’ll review the findings of this study in greater detail, as well as how you can work to reduce the instance of these health behaviors on your jobsite. For more information regarding the prevention of work-related injuries and fatalities, don’t hesitate to contact one of the Dade County contractor lawyers with Cotney Construction Law.

Related: Three Ways to Reduce Injuries in the Workplace

Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco Use

Two of the most common health risk behaviors that were highly prevalent among construction workers were smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco. According to another study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, over one-third of U.S. construction workers use tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes, hookah, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco. The health hazards associated with this health risk behavior are immeasurable. 

First and foremost, when your body is forced to deal with tobacco smoke alongside the dust and other chemicals found at construction sites, your risk of getting lung disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses is much higher. This goes for both smokers and non-smokers who inhale secondhand smoke on the job. If that alone wasn’t enough, smoking also presents a danger for construction workers that work around flammable materials and substances. It only takes one lit cigarette or other tobacco product to ignite a fire or cause a serious explosion. If you are concerned with the prevalence of smoking on your jobsite and are looking to adopt a non-smoking policy, consult with our knowledgeable Dade County construction attorneys.

Related: Dangerous and Wasteful: Smoking on Construction Sites

Binge Drinking

Next up, binge drinking —  the consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion by construction workers at least one day a month. From 2008 to 2012, the construction industry had the second-highest rate of heavy alcohol use among full-time workers after the mining industry.  A little over 1.6 million people reported drinking heavily in the past month alone, which was found to be true regardless of age or gender. This statistic could be attributed to a number of factors, including but not limited to the combination of predictable and unchallenging work with long hours. 

Unfortunately, alcohol and other substances greatly disrupt a worker’s coordination and judgment, leading to a heightened risk of being involved in a variety of accidents. Other negative consequences include loss of productivity, low morale, employee absenteeism, and poor workmanship, just to name a few. Additionally, drinking heavily can and will cause damage to the body over time, leading to a weakening of their immune system and serious health problems. If you need help putting policies into effect on the jobsite designed to decrease alcohol use among construction workers, contact a Dade County contractor lawyer.

Related: Preventing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Seat Belt Safety

Finally, this study found that construction workers were more likely to not wear a seatbelt when operating a vehicle over full-time workers in other industries, despite transportation-related incidents being the leading cause of work-related fatalities. A plethora of transportation incidents regularly occur in the construction industry, including but not limited to roadway collisions with other vehicles and pedestrian vehicular incidents. One proven and well-documented method to reduce injuries to vehicle occupants in the construction industry is the use of seatbelts. In fact, statistics taken from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the use of lap-shoulder seat belts alone reduces the risk of fatal injuries to front-seat occupants of cars by 45 percent and the risk to light truck occupants by 60 percent. If you’re looking to reduce these types of work-related injuries on your fatalities, you’ll want to work with a Dade County construction attorney to create a targeted invention that focuses on worker groups with the lowest seat belt use.

If you would like to speak with one of our Dade County contractor lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.