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Occupational health status of construction workers: a review.


Industrialization plays a very important part in the economic development for a growing country with large population like India. Construction industry in India provides employment to about 40 million people. [1,2] However, construction work is one of the most hazardous sectors where health risks are significant due to dusts, noise, chemicals, manual handling, vibrating tools, excessive loads, and lack of safety awareness. [3] Higher rates of workplace injuries are reported among the illiterate and inexperienced construction workers in Ahmedabad, India. [4] Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and working Conditions) Act, 1996 passed in the Parliament to ensure the construction workers' safety, health, and welfare measures. [5]

Daily average exposure to direct solar radiation is reported 7.94 h. [6] Therefore, the risk factor of skin cancer/ sunburn depending on skin type is well established. [6,7] Low back pain is another major problem of construction workers. [8,9] Moreover, construction workers are employed by vendors in a small group providing practically no health services. These workers are also maintained different kinds of postures during their work which is also very much harmful for their musculoskeletal system. [10] Different types of hazardous working conditions, environmental stress conditions, lack of use of personal protective equipments (PPEs), prolong maintained of harmful working postures, low level of awareness on health hazards and poor hygiene practice, etc., are jointly affecting the health conditions of the workers. In addition, various socioeconomic factors such as poverty, poor diet, various communicable diseases, poor sanitation, lack of education, ill-paid, etc., are also responsible for their poor health. [11] The object of the paper is to highlight the output of the researches on construction workers.


Occupational health is neglected under the pressure of social and economic challenges in developing countries. [12] Total estimated cost of all types of injuries in the construction industry in the USA is about $11.5 billion. [13] Cost of accidents, day loss, and illness are most effective measuring method for the assessment of construction workers safety program. [14] However, occupational posture analysis was first developed by Ovako Oy in 1973[15] for the steel industry workers in Finland to compute workload. After that Ovako working posture analysis system are applied for workers of many sectors, namely, construction, transport, crane operators, agriculture, and fishing to analysis the working postures. There is a need to assess the risk factors and control measure for ensuring health and safety of the workers. The results of the investigations on the occupational health over the globe are documented in Table 1.


Most of these unorganized construction workers are migratory workers and come from different villages of the country. They have to work 10-12 h/day to fulfill the requirements within very short period. They are exposed to different physical, chemical, biological, mechanical, and psychosocial hazards during their daily working scheduled. Due to prolonged maintain of poor working postures, bent position, manual handling of heavy weights with repetitive work and lack of rest, and musculoskeletal disorders are common among them. [82]

The prevalence of lower back pain, shoulder pain with other body parts discomfort is seen after the daylong hard work. These workers are experience fatal injuries and accidents in the workplaces due to poor body actions, negligence, improper use of PPEs, overexertion, and poor working practice. It is interesting to note that the most vital occupational hazard among the young construction workers is musculoskeletal symptoms at the starting of their working life. [83,84] To improve job-specific preventive actions for construction workers, workers health surveillance program is developed by Boschman et al. [85] "Best practices" for reducing musculoskeletal disorders are to be conducted for monitoring the occupational health. [86-88] The integrated knowledge may initiate further research on occupational health of construction workers.


Authors are thankful to all the authors whose published works are utilized for review.


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Gourab Biswas (1), Arkajit Bhattacharya (2), Rina Bhattacharya (2)

(1) Department of Environmental Science, University of Kalyani, Kalyani, West Bengal, India, (2) Mata Gujri Memorial Medical College, Kishanganj, Bihar, India

Correspondence to: Gourab Biswas, E-mail:

Received: July 29, 2016; Accepted: November 02, 2016

DOI: 10.5455/ijmsph.2017.0745302112016
Table 1: Summary of earlier works

Year   Descriptions

1972   Musculoskeletal disorder was found as one of the most harmful
       factors for sickness absence and early retirement among the
       construction workers between January 1972 to June 1996 in
       Ireland [16]

1975   High risks of malignant diseases and accidental deaths are
       associated with the construction industry as reported over 13
       years period [17]

1978   Construction workers under the age of 30 years and engaged in
       heavy physical activities were more porn to back injuries. Back
       pain was also more common among the concrete reinforcement
       workers due to forward bending [18,19]

1979   Due to lower back pain, early retirement had been reported
       among the Danish construction workers [20,21]

1982   Muscular strain in the shoulder muscles was common to
       construction workers [22]

1983   Knee degeneration symptoms were reported among the concrete
       reinforcement workers [23]

       Highest death rates were found among
       the ironworkers and the roof workers of construction industry
       in New Jersey, USA [24]

1986   Musculoskeletal disorders with obesity, hearing and lung
       impairments, increased rates of fatal injuries, and adversely
       affected working capability by musculoskeletal diseases were
       found among German construction workers [25-27]

1990   It was reported that heavy physical work and postural load with
       materials handling increases the lumbar spine disorders among
       concrete reinforcement and house paint workers [28]

1992   The prevalence of lower back pain was observed among Hamburg
       construction worker [29]

1993   Postural loads during hammering tasks of construction process
       are fallen in OWAS action category III and IV [30]

1994   Workers engaged in the construction industry suffered from
       workplace accidents and injuries due to lack of personal
       protective equipments and proper safety training [31]

1995   Musculoskeletal disorders were associated with physical factors
       in the construction industry [32] Seixas et al. had suggested an
       approach to assess acute construction sites injuries from a
       checklist of injuries associated with frequent occurring
       events [33]

       Chronic lower back pain was found among mason tenders [34]
       Strong associations between severe musculoskeletal pain with
       age, awkward postures, prolonged working hours, working
       duration, and heavy smoking were reported [35-37]

1996   Poor working postures with static positions and awkward trunk
       postures with manual handling of loads were found as the main
       factor affecting the musculoskeletal system [38,39]

       Overexertion stresses were obtained at the shoulders, elbows,
       and thighs among the scaffolding workers [40,41]

1997   Occupational health depended on the working conditions and type
       of building construction [42]

       High risk of lower back disorders observed among bricklayers
       having more than 10 years working experience [43]

1999   Physical workload during the construction work can be minimized
       by the use of auxiliary handling equipment144

       Due to heavy work, construction workers were affected from
       musculoskeletal injuries [45]

2001   Electronic inclinometer used in the posture analysis of
       construction work to estimate exposure frequency more
       accurately [46]

2002   Only 50cm rise from traditional height during brickwork can
       significantly reduce the lumber compression loads of the
       bricklayers [47]

       A study in Hong Kong reported that poor OHS was the main factor
       for higher rates of workplace injuries and occupational health
       hazards [48]

       Upper extremities' and lower back pain were also found common
       problems among construction workers [49]

2002   Significantly increased rates of medically reported
       musculoskeletal disorders were found among the workers [50,51]

2003   According to Gervais, back disorders among the construction
       workers can be prevented by proper planning, training and
       management practice, biomechanical hazards minimization with
       suitable working conditions [52]

2004   Women construction workers had to work 10-12 h daily [53]

       Lower back discomfort and shoulder disorders of bricklayers can
       be minimized by mechanization of materials transport and
       working height adjustment [54,55]

       Risks of lower back, arms and legs pain with psychological
       stress were reported among the bricklayers and supervisors of
       construction industry [56,57]

2005   Working at high level, bodily actions, improper use or removal
       of personal protective equipment, overexertion, unguarded
       openings, poor working practice, lack of risk management, etc.,
       Were the important causes for fatal falls of construction
       industry [58-61]

2006   Slip, trip, and fall were found as the major factors for
       residential construction site injuries [62]

       Higher rates of musculoskeletal disorders in different body
       parts were observed among the retired construction workers [63]

2007   Jain had reported that the annual accident rates are 15.8/1000
       workers which are eight times more from the manufacturing
       industries [64]

       Higher rates of mortality and psychological stresses with
       alcohol and drugs abuse were found in USA, Britain, and
       Europe [65]

2008   Migrant construction workers are victim of severe workplace
       accidents due to unable to follow the required safety
       measures [66]

2009   In Gondar City, Ethiopia, male workers found to be more porn to
       work-related injuries [67]

2010   A multivariate model was developed by Village and Ostry for
       minimizing the musculoskeletal injuries of construction
       workers [68]

2010   Increased rates of tobacco and alcohol consumptions with high
       morbidity status were found among migratory, unskilled male,
       and illiterate construction workers in India [69-72]

2010   84% construction workers of Murshidabad district of West
       Bengal, India had reported work-related musculoskeletal
       disorders after the day's work [73]

2011   Due to low wage, poor socio-economic condition was very common
       among the construction workers which leads them in severe
       stress and anxiety and also makes them addicted [74,75]

2012   Valsangkar and Sai had shown that musculoskeletal disorders
       have significant impact on physical, mental health and
       wellbeing of the construction workers [76,77]

2013   Intense lower back, upper back, and shoulder pain were reported
       among semi-skilled and un-skilled construction workers in
       Nigeria [78]

2014   In the construction sites, workers were the major victims of
       accidents due to negligence. Kadiri et al. had suggested that
       proper safety practice and safe workplace environment can
       reduce the risk of construction site accidents [79]

2015   In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, higher rates of injuries among
       construction workers were reported which may lead to
       work-related disabilities, illness, and productivity loss [80]

2016   Near about 80% working postures were found harmful for the
       musculoskeletal system of the construction workers [81]

OHS: Occupational health services, OWAS: Ovako working posture
analysis system
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Author:Biswas, Gourab; Bhattacharya, Arkajit; Bhattacharya, Rina
Publication:International Journal of Medical Science and Public Health
Article Type:Report
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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