Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers in the United States from 1992 to 2014

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Abstract

Objectives

Examine trends and patterns of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) among construction workers in the USA, with an emphasis on older workers.

Methods

WMSDs were identified from the 1992–2014 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), and employment was estimated from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Risk of WMSDs was measured by number of WMSDs per 10 000 full-time equivalent workers and stratified by major demographic and employment subgroups. Time series analysis was performed to examine the trend of WMSDs in construction.

Results

The number of WMSDs significantly dropped in the US construction industry, following the overall injury trends. However, the rate of WMSDs in construction remained higher than in all industries combined; the median days away from work increased from 8 days in 1992 to 13 days in 2014, and the proportion of WMSDs for construction workers aged 55 to 64 years almost doubled. By occupation, construction labourers had the largest number of WMSD cases, while helpers, heating and air-conditioning mechanics, cement masons and sheet metal workers had the highest rates of WMSDs. The major cause of WMSDs in construction was overexertion, and back injuries accounted for more than 40% of WMSDs among construction workers. The estimated wage loss for private wage-and-salary construction workers was $46 million in 2014.

Conclusions

Construction workers continue to face a higher risk of WMSDs. Ergonomic solutions that reduce overexertion—the primary exposure for WMSDs—should be adopted extensively at construction sites, particularly for workers with a higher risk of WMSDs.

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