OSHA Alliance Construction Roundtable: An Update

© Drazen Lovric/E+

By John W.  Mroszczyk, Ph.D., P.E., CSP

OSHA established the Alliance Program Construction Roundtable to bring construction-related Alliance Program participants together to discuss and share information on workplace safety and health. Through the roundtable, participants develop and share construction-related compliance assistance tools and other resources for workers and employers.

During the group’s September 2017 meeting, OSHA staff shared some telling statistics that shed light on some ongoing challenges the industry faces:

  • Ninety percent of construction employers have 20 or fewer employees.
  • These employers have high turnover.
  • Most job sites are multiemployer sites.
  • Fifty percent of all OSHA inspections are conducted on construction projects.
  • Thirty percent of fall fatalities occur from 15 ft or less.
  • Trenching injuries continue to be a problem industry wide.

The group also heard from NIOSH’s Scott Earnest, who explored ideas for developing dissemination products to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in construction workers across age groups.

In particular, he highlighted these key facts:

  • Between 1985 and 2015, the average age for construction workers jumped 6.5 years.
  • Recovery following a health problem is often more challenging with age.
  • Almost all biological functioning declines with age.
  • Risk of disability and chronic health conditions increase with age.
  • Rate of sprains/strains/tears, soreness, fractures increase with age.
  • The percentage of workers in the age 45 to 64 range and the age 65 and older range has been increasing. This trend is projected to continue over the next 30 years.
  • Among construction workers age 50 and over, 31.2% report lower back pain and 31.9% report joint problems.
  • Among construction workers, WMSDs are a significant portion of nonfatal injuries and a major cause of functional impairment.
  • Each year, construction companies lose highly skilled and experienced workers due to nonfatal injuries.

Earnest reviewed several strategies that can benefit workers across all age groups. For example, most workers prefer jobs that provide some flexibility. Try to give employees a say in their work schedule, conditions, location and tasks. Additional measures include use self-paced paced work, self-directed rest breaks and less repetitive tasks. It is also important to match work tasks to worker ability and to avoid prolonged sedentary work. Employers should also manage hazards at the work site (e.g., slips/trips, noise) that can challenge older workers.

Here are links to additional resources on this topic:

John W. Mroszczyk, Ph.D., P.E., CSP, is president of Northeast Consulting Engineers Inc. in Danvers, MA. He is a past administrator of ASSE’S Engineering Practice Specialty and currently serves on the Society’s Council on Professional Development. Mroszczyk is ASSE’s representative on the OSHA Alliance Program Construction Roundtable. He received a 2015 Professional Paper Award from ASSE for his article, “Improving Construction Safety: A Team Effort.” He is a professional member of ASSE’s Greater Boston Chapter and speaks frequently on construction safety. 


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