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Disabling Occupational Injury in the US Construction Industry, 1996

Courtney, Theodore K. MS; Matz, Simon MS; Webster, Barbara S. BSPT, PA-C

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2002 - Volume 44 - Issue 12 - p 1161-1168
Original Articles

In 1996 the US construction industry comprised 5.4% of the annual US employment but accounted for 7.8% of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses and 9.7% of cases involving at least a day away from work. Information in the published literature on the disability arising from construction injuries is limited. The construction claims experience (n = 35,790) of a large workers’ compensation insurer with national coverage was examined. The leading types and sources of disabling occupational morbidity in 1996 in the US construction industry were identified. Disability duration was calculated from indemnity payments data using previously published methods. The average disability duration for an injured construction worker was 46 days with a median of 0 days. The most frequently occurring conditions were low back pain (14.8%), foreign body eye injuries (8.5%), and finger lacerations (4.8%). Back pain also accounted for the greatest percentage of construction claim costs (21.3%) and disability days (25.5%). However, the conditions with the longest disability durations were sudden-onset injuries, including fractures of the ankle (median = 55 days), foot (42 days), and wrist (38 days). Same-level and elevated falls were the principal exposures for fractures of the wrist and ankle, whereas elevated falls and struck by incidents accounted for the majority of foot fractures. Manual materials handling activities were most often associated with low back pain disability. The results suggest that these most disabling injuries can be addressed by increasing primary prevention resources in slips and falls and exposures related to injuries of sudden-onset as well as in reducing manual materials handling and other exposures associated with more gradual-onset injuries.

From the Liberty Mutual Research Center for Safety and Health (Mr Courtney, Mr Matz) and the Liberty Mutual Center for Disability Research (Ms Webster), Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

Address correspondence to: Theodore K. Courtney, MS, Liberty Mutual Research Center for Safety and Health, 71 Frankland Road, Hopkinton, MA 01748; e-mail: theodore.courtney@libertymutual.com.

Copyright © by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Copyright © 2002 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine