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Construction, transportation workers face higher risk of severe spinal injuries: study

construction workers
Photo: pugun-photo/iStockphoto

Sydney — Workers in the construction and transportation industries face an increased risk of traumatic spinal injuries, in part because of “inefficient systems approaches or ineffective prevention policies,” suggests a recent study led by researchers at the University of Sydney.

The researchers analyzed 824 hospital admissions linked to work-related spinal injuries in the New South Wales state of Australia between 2013 and 2016. Findings showed that half of the injuries occurred in the construction industry, while 31 percent occurred in vehicle crashes in the transportation industry.

Other findings:

  • Falls, predominantly those from height, contributed to 78 percent of spinal injuries in construction.
  • Heavy vehicle crashes were the most common cause of injuries, at 24 percent.
  • 86 percent of injured workers were male.
  • Injured workers had an average age of 47 and spent an average of 16 days in the hospital.

“This study demonstrates that the construction industry is still experiencing a high burden of work-related spinal trauma, particularly related to falls, despite safety measures being in place,” Dr. Lisa Sharwood, lead author and University of Sydney injury epidemiologist, said in Sept. 26 press release. “Increased local surveillance of safety systems and stricter enforcement of relevant legislation is needed to reduce risks and fall-related injuries.”

The study was published online Sept. 27 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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