Disparity in the risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust among non-manual and manual employees in the construction industry

Ben Fluck, Lamine Mahdjoubi, David Fluck, Christopher H Fry, Thang S Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Construction workers are at increased health risk due to exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. We examined differences in health risk among non-manual and manual employees in the construction industry. The participants were drawn randomly from the construction industry by targeting UK construction workers’ websites. Online survey of construction industry employees using a questionnaire consisted of 17 items to obtain information on demographic data, employment history and health risk exposure. Chi-squared tests were used to explore differences in health risk between manual and non-manual employees, and logistic regression to determine the risk of adverse events in manual workers. Of the 47 employees invited, 45 completed the questionnaire (95% response rate). Seventeen were non-manual (professional, project managers and managers) and 28 were manual employees (tradesmen and construction workers). There was a significantly higher percentage of non-manual employees below 45 years than older group (70.6% vs 39.3%; χ2 = 4.2, p = 0.039) and they worked less than 20 years than those working longer (82.4% vs 32.1%; χ2 = 10.7, p = 0.001). Compared to non-manual workers, manual workers were more likely to work >20 years: OR = 2.2 (95% CI = 1.3–3.6); be exposed to RCS dust and smoke: unadjusted OR = 1.8 (1.1–3.1), age and length of time working in construction industry adjusted OR = 2.2(1.2–4.2); and have breathing problems: unadjusted OR = 3.9 (1.5–10.4), age, smoking and length of time working in construction industry adjusted OR = 3.7 (1.1–12.5). The risk of breathing problems was increased among individuals working more than 20 years: OR = 4.8 (1.2–18.6), exposed to dust and smoking: unadjusted OR = 3.8 (1.0–14.1), age and length of time working in construction industry adjusted OR = 5.4 (1.2–24.4), whilst those with adequate information on health hazards were associated with lower risk of breathing problems. There is an increased risk of exposure to RCS dust and pulmonary symptoms among manual employees in the construction industry. Further efforts are required to provide greater protection for this group of workers to reduce their health risk.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalSafety in Extreme Environments
Early online date30 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • occupational hazards
  • healthcare inequality
  • pulmonary disease
  • PPE
  • smoking

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