Deaths from external causes of injury among construction workers in North Carolina, 1988-1994.
Records from the Office of the North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner were used to describe 3955 deaths, both on and off the job, between 1988 and 1994 from external causes of injury (E-codes) among individuals whose usual occupation was in the construction trades. For the calculation of rates, population sizes were estimated using 1980 and 1990 census data. Deaths from injuries occurred at an average rate of 226 per 100,000 population; 213 per 100,000 for non-work-related fatalities and 13 per 100,000 for work-related fatalities. Overall, deaths were most often from guns or motor vehicle accidents. Work-related deaths were most often caused by motor vehicles (21%); falls (20%), most commonly from roofs or scaffolds; and machinery (15%), electrocutions (14%), and falling objects (10%). Three major causes of work-related motor vehicle accidents were identified including injuries to pedestrians in highway work zones and in backovers on construction sites, and injuries to drivers caused by shifting loads while transporting construction materials. The circumstances surrounding deaths involving scaffolding document the need for training and safety procedures for erecting, moving, and disassembling scaffolds, but also for safe work practices on scaffolds. Training and safety procedures to avoid electrocutions must involve workers who are not in the electrical trades, as these deaths often occurred among individuals who were not electricians or linemen. Significant differences were observed in the proportion of victims having elevated blood-alcohol levels depending on whether the injury was work-related; 57 percent of victims were impaired at the time of fatal non-work-related injuries compared to 5 percent of work-related injuries. Interventions to treat and prevent alcohol abuse among construction workers could have a significant public health impact in the prevention of premature death from injury, particularly outside the workplace.
Lipscomb, HJ; Dement, JM; Rodriguez-Acosta, R
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