Construction workers are most likely to suffer serious injuries during the first four hours of their shift, a recent study has found.
The study from Oregon State University also found that those who work evening or night shifts experience more severe injuries than their day-shift counterparts.
The study, which appears in the Journal of Occupational Health, analysed 12,222 workers’ compensation claims from the Oregon construction industry from 2007-2013 that were classed as disabling.
In this sense, “disabling” claims refer to a work-related injury or illness that caused the worker to miss at least three days of work, or the injury required overnight hospitalisation.
Lead author Liu Yang said the study was one of the first to analyse workers compensation injury claims data by the hour of work, which means its results can be used to better tailor specific safety interventions.
“I really hope that people could learn from this and realise that the chance of getting injured or getting more severe injuries are related to the hours of your work.”
While workers were most likely to sustain an injury during the first four hours of work, the hourly injury rate actually increased after an 8-hour shift. The injuries reported after the four-hour mark were also more severe.
Yang speculated that rest breaks play an important role in injury frequency and severity. Many construction workers take a mid-shift rest or meal break and therefore experience some restorative benefits. However, if this break is skipped, workers risk a more severe injury.
Yang suggested two interventions that could help the situation – increased workplace supervision and work organisation. She said employers should be taking into consideration the hours their employees work, as well as strictly enforcing mandatory rest breaks and meal breaks.
“In Oregon, we have regulations about breaks; however, it is unclear what workers experience in practice. The construction industry is fast-paced; they may need to finish their task at a certain time, so they may not really take their rest and meal breaks as required.”
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