Construction Has High Rate of Muskuloskeletal Claims

| |
CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

A summary of a study on musculoskeletal injuries in different industries, including information on injuries by trade and type of work
May 1998

Construction workers have some of the highest risks for sprain-and-strain injuries. That is the conclusion of a new analysis of Washington state workers' compensation data from 1989-96 by Barbara Silverstein and John Kalat of Washington state SHARP (Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention). The authors ranked industries, based on the rate of work-related injuries to the back or upper extremities, hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or neck. The focus was on injuries that develop slowly.

The authors set up a "prevention index," ranking the number and rate of claims for each problem by industry for the 8 years studied. Trades with a lot of heavy-materials handling or repetitive work were most at risk, the report says. For back injuries, 9 of the 16 riskiest industries were in construction.

Wood-frame building construction is one of the highest-risk industries, landing in the top 10 for most disorders. Roofing and wallboard installation are also high-risk for many disorders. Other high-risk trades for some disorders included boilermaking, concrete, electrical wiring, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), insulation installation, masonry, painting, plumbing, road construction.

Based on average payments, the researchers estimate the national costs for claims for gradual-onset low-back injuries (for all industries) at about $16.8 billion a year, with another $6.7 billion for upper-extremity claims.

The report, Work-Related Disorders of the Back and Upper Extremity in Washington State, 1989-1996, technical report 40-1-1997), is free from SHARP at 360-902-5669 or 5672(fax).