Occupational demands and health effects for bricklayers and construction supervisors: A systematic review

Am J Ind Med. 2011 Jan;54(1):55-77. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20899.


Background: knowledge was gathered on occupational demands and health effects of two occupations in the construction industry, bricklayers and supervisors, in order to design a job-specific workers' health surveillance (WHS) for construction workers.

Methods: we systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, HSELINE, NIOSHTIC-2, and Picarta up to December 2008.

Results: a total of 60 articles were included. Evidence was found for the following demands for bricklayers: energetic load (exceeding 25% heart rate reserve), load on the lower back (exceeding the NIOSH-threshold value of 3.4 kN), repetitive force exertions of the upper extremities, frequent bending with trunk flexion exceeding 60° and working with the arms more than 60° elevated. Environmental demands include: dust and quartz exposure (exceeding the limit values of 3.0 and 0.05 mg/m(3), respectively), vibration and noise (exceeding the limit value of 80 dBA). Bricklayers are at increased risk of lung cancer, low back pain, complaints of arms and legs and getting injuries. Among construction supervisors are walking and standing common physically demanding activities. Psychosocial demands with evidence for supervisors were mental demands, workload, time pressure, working long hours, and social-organizational factors. Supervisors are at increased risk of lung cancer and injuries.

Conclusions: for bricklayers evidence was found for physical demands and risk on low back pain and complaints of arms and legs, for construction supervisors on psychosocial demands. Both occupations are at increased risk of lung cancer and injuries. Job-specific demands and health effects should be incorporated in WHS for construction workers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Construction Materials / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Time Factors
  • Workload