Heat increases rates of traumatic injuries for construction workers, according to Oregon State University study
Rates of traumatic injury among workers in construction and agriculture are significantly higher during periods of high heat versus more moderate weather, according to an Oregon State University (OSU) study. Researchers said the results highlight the importance of providing robust safety protections for outdoor workers, especially in extreme heat events.
“The big take-home message I want people to get from this is that, if the temperature is high and you have workers out there, they’re more likely to be injured, whether it’s due to dehydration, reduction in mental capacity or exhaustion,” said Richie Evoy, lead author on the paper and a recent doctoral graduate from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
The study looked at Oregon workers’ compensation data from 2009-2018, with researchers studying nearly 92,000 claims involving temporary or permanent disability or death. They focused on injuries that occurred in the months of April through October because the average heat index was above 55 degrees during that period.
Researchers found that construction and agriculture workers were significantly more likely to suffer a traumatic injury on days when the heat index was above 75 degrees, compared to a 65-degree or less baseline. The effect worsened when the heat index was above 90 degrees, with an increased risk of 19% to 29% over baseline as the index ranged from 90 to 119 degrees.
“These results support the need for occupational safety practitioners to include protections for workers during extreme heat,” said Laurel Kincl, co-author of the study and an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “While our study is based in Oregon, this is true of other states and regions since these conditions will likely become more frequent with climate change.”
The other co-authors of the OSU study were Perry Hystad and Harold Bae, who are both in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. The researchers also studied the impact of wildfire smoke on injury rates.
To learn more about the study, read the article by Molly Rosbach on OSU’s website at https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/osu-study-finds-higher-rates-traumatic-injuries-outdoor-workers-during-hotter-weather.