Draft Agenda for Construction Identifies Respiratory, Dermal Hazards among Areas in Need of Research

Published October 11, 2017

The new draft National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) for Construction identifies respiratory and dermal hazards as “problematic areas” in need of research to help reduce the frequency of occupational disease in construction workers caused by these hazards. The draft agenda, which is intended to identify the most important occupational safety and health research needs for the decade spanning 2016–2026, notes that construction workers can be exposed to “severe airborne exposures” during abrasive blasting, jack hammering, rock or well drilling, concrete drilling, welding, and other tasks. Dermal exposures associated with mixing, pouring, and spreading concrete, and exposures to UV rays of sunlight during long work hours, are also of concern.

“The physical demands of the job and limited modified work opportunities suggest that respiratory diseases are costly to construction workers,” the draft agenda reads. “Ongoing research in this area with many partners has resulted in some major successes, including significant reductions in worker exposures during asphalt milling and asphalt paving.”

The document also describes how research efforts to understand and reduce silica exposures were used extensively to support the technical basis of OSHA’s final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which was published in March 2016.

According to the draft agenda, research is needed to improve the ability to determine how much of a reduction in exposure is needed to prevent adverse health effects; improve the existence and performance of control technologies; and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions using video exposure monitoring and related tools. Further research may also help improve the dissemination and use of known interventions.

Other areas identified for further research include occupational hearing loss in construction, exposure to excessive heat and environmental conditions, and emerging issues such as nanomaterials, prescription opioid abuse, and robotics, automation, and exoskeletons.

The draft National Occupational Research Agenda for Construction is available as a PDF in the docket on Regulations.gov. NIOSH invites comments on the draft agenda through Nov. 27, 2017. Instructions for submitting comments are available in the Federal Register notice.

NORA is a partnership program that was created in 1996 to identify and address critical issues in workplace health and safety. Construction is one of 10 sector groups based on major areas of the U.S. economy. Learn more on NIOSH’s website.