Work-related injuries among union drywall carpenters in Washington State, 1989-2008.
BACKGROUND: Drywall installers are at high-risk of work-related injury. Comprehensive descriptive epidemiology of injuries among drywall installers, particularly over time, is lacking. METHODS: We identified worker-hours and reported and accepted workers' compensation (WC) claims for a 20-year (1989-2008) cohort of 24,830 Washington State union carpenters. Stratified by predominant type of work (drywall installation, other carpentry), work-related injury rates were examined over calendar time and by worker characteristics. Expert interviews provided contextual details. RESULTS: Drywall installers' injury rates, higher than those of other carpenters, declined substantially over this period by 73.6%. Common injury mechanisms were struck by/against, overexertion and falls. Drywall material was considered a contributing factor in 19.7% of injuries. One-third of these drywall material-related injuries resulted in paid lost time, compared to 19.4% of injuries from other sources. Rates of injury were particularly high among workers with 2 to <4 years in the union. Notable declines over time in rates of overexertion injury in which drywall material was a contributing factor were still observed after controlling for secular temporal trends. Experts highlighted changes over the past 20 years that improved both work safety and, in some cases, production. CONCLUSIONS: Declines in drywall installers' injury rates over time likely reflect, in part, enhanced workplace safety, including efforts to reduce overexertion hazards associated with handling drywall. Continued injury prevention efforts are needed, particularly for less tenured workers. Given the potential for under-reporting to WC, additional sources of health outcomes data may provide a more complete picture of workers' health.
Schoenfisch, AL; Lipscomb, H; Marshall, S; Cameron, W; Richardson, D; Casteel, C
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