142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Real changes in construction safety or smoke and mirrors?

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014

Hester J. Lipscomb, MPH, Ph.D. , Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Ashley Schoenfisch, MSPH, PH.D. , Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Background: Active union carpenters in Washington State were invited to participate in a mailed questionnaire designed to assess their experiences with worksite safety management, reporting of injuries, as well as management of any health conditions.  

Methods: Using elements from the Nordic Safety Climate Questionnaire (NOSACQ), available through agreement with the Nordic Network, workers were asked about safety behaviors of management and co-workers. They were also asked about exposure to a variety of behavioral-based safety programs as well as the effects of work speed, economic conditions, and job security on safety and the reporting of work injuries.   Respondents were invited to share information in free text format about anything they felt influenced safety practices and reporting of injuries or use of their union-provided health insurance. 

Results: Responses were received from over 1000 carpenters.  While there were examples of safety improvements over time, the free text data, particularly, illustrated examples of mismatches between words and actions in regard to safety.  Further, a number of carpenters directly called the researchers to offer further explanations and concerns about declines in “real” safety efforts. Workers openly acknowledged risks associated with reporting work injuries; some felt particularly vulnerable because of age (older as well as younger inexperienced carpenters) or prior injury.  They gave examples of safety trainings that were  “preach without practice”  and described doing “what you have to do to keep your job” even if it was not safe.   

Conclusions: These findings have many implications for worksite safety, practices, and training as well as accurate/inaccurate injury surveillance.   

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe potential pitfalls in how safety culture is - or is not -- actually operationalized on worksites from the perspective of construction workers.

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Surveillance

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have studied health and safety of construction workers for over 20 years. I was the PI on the project from which these data were derived. I am an occupational injury epidemiologist.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.