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Temp workers in construction: Researchers explore barriers to injury reporting

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Photo: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Miami — Temporary construction workers face “unique barriers” to reporting injuries and near misses, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the NIOSH-funded Occupational Safety and Health Program at the Florida Department of Health.

The researchers conducted six group discussions with a combined 43 temporary construction workers from staffing agencies in South Florida. The average age of the participants was 41.

Four broad themes describing near misses, reporting practices and workplace safety hazards emerged from the discussions:

  1. Nonstandard construction workers draw a clear distinction between near misses and injury, and believe their best protections from both occur at the worker level.
  2. Social network structure on construction sites is an effective way to protect workers against injury and near misses. The participants aimed to prevent injuries and near misses by connecting with more seasoned workers at new jobsites and shadowing/observing their safety behaviors.
  3. Safety and health priorities and policies at the organizational level differ from those at the worker level, which contributes to workplace injuries. Specifically, not enforcing rules was cited by the participants.
  4. Reporting of safety concerns and near misses is influenced by injury severity, because the workers fear losing their job.

The researchers note that although more research is needed, “these findings support the need for construction managers and seasoned or skilled workers to advocate for reporting hazards, near misses and injuries. Jobsite-specific education on safety hazard identification and networks among workers to create hazard awareness are also supported by these findings.”

The study was published online Jan. 14 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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