Making sense of highway construction: a taxonomic framework for ergonomic exposure assessment and intervention research

Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2003 Apr;18(4):256-67. doi: 10.1080/10473220301402.


Construction is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. Occupational health research to characterize the hazards in construction work has been hampered by the lack of a systematic approach to classification of construction work and its associated hazards. A taxonomy of construction work, a nested system of classification, has been developed to systematize the collection and reporting of exposure assessment data for the characterization and reduction of hazards and the prevention of musculoskeletal injury. This taxonomy subdivides construction work into the categories of stage, operation, task, and activity. It is based on a bidding specification system already in use within the industry and thus provides a terminology common among workers, supervisors, and managers. The identification of tasks and activities that are present in multiple stages and/or trades contributes to the efficiency of exposure data collection and facilitates the generalizability to other settings for both exposure data and intervention evaluations. The taxonomy provides a framework and vocabulary that facilitates field work and participatory research activities. It can also potentially be linked to personnel and economic data for estimation of costs of safety and health problems, as well as benefits of interventions. Although developed for construction ergonomics, the taxonomic approach has application to non-routine work in other industry sectors and possibly in occupational health research other than ergonomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Classification*
  • Construction Materials / adverse effects
  • Engineering
  • Ergonomics*
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / classification
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Research Design
  • Transportation
  • Workforce