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Health risk behaviors in construction: Study finds need for targeted interventions, health programs

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Washington — Targeted interventions and health programs are needed to reduce tobacco use, binge drinking and other health risk behaviors prevalent among construction workers, NIOSH researchers concluded in a recent study.

Using 2013-2016 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the researchers compared the frequency of six health risk behaviors – smoking, smokeless tobacco use, binge drinking, no leisure-time physical activity, not always wearing a seat belt and getting less than seven hours of sleep a night – among construction workers with workers in other industries.

They found that:

  • Carpenters, construction laborers and roofers had a significantly elevated prevalence of five of the behaviors, not including short sleep.
  • Construction managers were more likely to smoke, use smokeless tobacco, binge drink and not wear a seat belt.
  • Roofers, as well as electrical power-line installers and repairers, were more likely to binge drink.
  • Operating engineers, who operate and maintain heavy equipment, had a high rate of smokeless tobacco use.

“Construction workers are in physically demanding jobs and exposed to many chemical and physical workplace hazards, with falls remaining the leading cause of work-related deaths in construction,” a June 23 press release from NIOSH states. “Previous studies suggested that construction workers who exhibit certain health risk behaviors may be more likely to experience work-related injuries.”

The new study was published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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