NIOSH Construction Compendium

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Summary Statement

One-page summaries of over 100 NIOSH-supported construction safety and health research projects in 2002.


RESEARCHER: David Pedersen

Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (513) 841-4223

PURPOSE: Provide external support for NIOSH's analytic epidemiology research program concerned with energy-related health effects at DOE facilities.

RESEARCH SUMMARY: NIOSH supports applied field research to identify and investigate the relationships between health outcomes and occupational exposure to radiation and other hazardous agents, epidemiologic research relevant to energy-related occupational health, and research related to assessing occupational exposures to hazardous agents at nuclear weapons facilities and in other energy-related industries.

This program uses academic and nonprofit organizations to propose and support research that focuses on current and former worker populations at energy-related sites and expands the literature on such research. These extramurally generated projects provide a point of view different from NIOSH intramural research concepts. Unique exposures in special populations, such as job stress in downsized workers or lung fibrosis in plutonium workers, and surveillance methods are evaluated by academic researchers and labor, either independently or in collaboration with NIOSH partners. Several studies specifically addressed the occupational exposure characteristics of personnel in the construction trade crafts, including exposure history reconstruction, participatory job task analysis, and mechanisms for hazard exposure identification and surveillance.

Most of the study procedures include meta-analysis, combined analysis methodologies, and combined cohort studies across sites, and provide an opportunity for an intervention component. Results of this study should contribute significantly to the understanding of health effects associated with low-level exposures to ionizing radiation and other hazardous agents at DOE sites. All study records will become part of the DOE Comprehensive Epidemiologic Data Resource.

KEYWORDS: Epidemiology, exposure assessment, nuclear workers


Bingham, E. Work histories evaluating new participatory methods. University of Cincinnati. Available at

Barnhart, S. Comprehensive occupational health surveillance. University of Washington. Available at

Tankersley, W. Improved Systems for worker exposure surveillance. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Available at



AFFILIATION: University of Pittsburgh (412) 624-0762

PURPOSE: Examine long-term changes in neuropsychological performance in a cohort of workers chronically exposed to lead.

RESEARCH SUMMARY: Exposures to lead remain a significant issue for occupational and environmental health, in part because new research continues to demonstrate adverse effects at levels formerly thought to be innocuous. Few studies up to this point have been able to examine the effects of lead in relation to quantitative measures of chronic occupational exposure. The study will also add to our understanding of the effects of lead in older people, which is important as the working population ages.

People with past and current exposure to lead are being compared to a demographically similar unexposed control group. Between 1981 and 1984, 288 lead-exposed workers and 182 unexposed controls were evaluated as part of an epidemiological study of lead carried out at the University of Pittsburgh. At the time of the initial evaluation the workers had a mean age of 35 (range 21-60). The current tests will repeat the neuropsychological test battery, collect information on current and past psychiatric history and current blood lead levels, and measure lead concentration in bones using x-ray fluorescence (XRF). To date, we have re-evaluated 117 subjects. For the current assessment, lead-exposed subjects and unexposed controls do not differ in age, but overall education is higher for controls. Sixty percent of the workers have not worked with lead for over a year, while 40% are currently working or have worked with lead within the past year.

The specific aims are to test four hypotheses:
  1. That exposed subjects will have poorer neuropsychological test scores and more psychiatric dysfunction;
  2. That exposed subjects will show steeper performance declines across the age range when compared to controls;
  3. That exposure will be predictive of performance, with a dose-response pattern; and
  4. That higher bone lead concentrations will co-vary with current blood lead levels.
KEYWORDS: Effectiveness research, neurotoxicology, lead



AFFILIATION: CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training (301) 578-8500; (856) 985-9300

PURPOSE: Develop a health hazard assessment and control methodology for construction that cultivates safety and health expertise within the construction workforce.

RESEARCH SUMMARY: Construction safety and health specialists. Journeymen from several trades have been trained to collect exposure data and assist in control technology evaluations throughout the United States. Educa-tional programs are in place at Marshall University with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and at Drexel University with building trades workers in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey to provide college-credit courses in occupational safety and health for construction.

Silica surveys. Over 40 personal exposure measurements of respirable dust and respirable quartz were collected at 13 sites from painters, bricklayers, operating engineers, and laborers. Exposures to respirable quartz were over 500 times the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for painters engaged in abrasive blasting, over 20 times the NIOSH REL for bricklayers, and over 10 times the NIOSH REL for operators and laborers engaged in road milling operations.

Welding fume and metal exposure hazard evaluation. Approximately 200 personal exposure measurements of fumes and various metals were collected among welders during welding and torch-cutting. Measurements have been collected with and without ventilation. Use of ventilation showed a statistically significant reduction in exposure. Hexavalant chromium and other metal exposures among construction workers are currently being evaluated based on field surveys of welding and abrasive blasting operations and review of the literature.

Engineering and Work Practice Controls Work Group.
CPWR and NIOSH co-chair a standing work group that directs, develops, and evaluates control technologies for construction health hazards. The group convened its tenth meeting in March 2002. Videos graphically demonstrating the effectiveness of local exhaust ventilation for drywall finishing dust and welding have been developed. Low-hazard abrasive blasting methods and materials and engineering controls for masonry work are currently being evaluated.

Other collaborators on this project include the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts, Philadelphia Apprenticeship Coordinators Association, Harvard University, and the University of North Carolina.

KEYWORDS: Exposure assessment, silica, metals, control technology, education and training


Susi, P., M. Goldberg, and P. Barnes. 2000. The use of a task-based exposure assessment model for assessment of metal fume exposure. Applied Occupational and En-vironmental Hygiene, v. 15, pp. 26- 38.

Rappaport, S.M., M. Weaver, D. Taylor, L. Kupper, and P. Susi. 1999. Application of mixed models to assess aerosol exposures measured by construction workers during hot processes. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, v. 43, no. 7.

Weaver, M., L. Kupper, D. Taylor, H. Kromhout, P. Susi, and S. Rappaport. 2001. Simultaneous assessment of occupational exposures from multiple worker groups. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, v. 45, no. 7, pp. 525- 542.

Susi, P. Welding: A Control Technology. 2000. Video 1-00. Silver Spring, MD: CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training. 8 minutes.

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