Ergonomics Research/studies Worker health and wellness Construction Injury prevention Musculoskeletal disorders Construction

Rate of work-related MSDs in construction dips as median DAFW climbs: report

Photo: Center for Construction Research and Training

Silver Spring, MD — The rate of nonfatal, work-related musculoskeletal disorders requiring days away from work in the construction industry has continued to decline, while the median DAFW for such injuries remains on the rise, according to a recent report from the Center for Construction Research and Training – also known as CPWR.

Work-related MSDs in construction occurred at a rate of 31.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2017, down from 32.7 in 2016 and 34.6 in 2015. The latest figure is markedly lower than the rate of 137.0 reported in 1992, the year the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses began.


However, the median DAFW that construction employees needed to recover from work-related MSDs increased to 13 in 2017 from eight in 1992, and to 12 from seven for overall nonfatal injuries over the same period.

Other findings:

  • Back injuries accounted for 41.7% of work-related MSDs in construction in 2017, followed by knee injuries (12.4%).
  • Sprains, strains and tears were the most common injuries requiring DAFW, representing 68% of cases. Soreness and pain was the next most common injury, at 20%.
  • Overexertion unrelated to lifting or lowering activities (59.1%) and overexertion while lifting or lowering (35%) were the leading causes of work-related MSDs requiring DAFW.
  • On average from 2015 to 2017, 45.6% of construction workers reported experiencing MSD symptoms such as arthritis and pain in the joints, lower back and neck.

Among other resources to help reduce MSDs in construction, the report cites a CPWR pilot program called Best Built Plans, which includes a site planning tool, training resources, and input on warmups and best lifting practices.

“Effective ergonomic innovations to reduce the physical workload of construction workers are essential to mitigate the risk of WMSDs and to facilitate sustained employment, in particular for older construction workers given the aging workforce trend,” the report states.

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