Job tasks, potential exposures, and health risks of laborers employed in the construction industry

Am J Ind Med. 1993 Oct;24(4):413-25. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700240407.


Construction laborers have some of the highest death rates of any occupation in the United States. There has been very little systematic research focused exclusively on "laborers" as opposed to other workers in the construction industry. We reviewed the English language literature and various data bases describing the occupational tasks, exposures, and work-related health risks of construction laborers. The sources of information included 1) occupational mortality surveillance data collected by the states of California and Washington and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); 2) National Occupational Exposure Survey; 3) national fatality data; 4) cancer registry data; and 5) case reports of specific causes of morbidity. While the literature reported that construction laborers have increased risk for mesothelioma, on-the-job trauma, acute lead poisoning, musculoskeletal injury, and dermatitis, the work relatedness of excess risks for all-cause mortality, cirrhosis, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and leukemia is less clear. Furthermore, while laborers are known to be potentially exposed to asbestos, noise, and lead, and the NIOSH Job Exposure Matrix describes other potential hazardous exposures, little research has characterized other possible exposures and no research has been found that describes the exposures associated with specific job tasks. More advanced study designs are needed that include a better understanding of the job tasks and exposures to construction laborers, in order to evaluate specific exposure-disease relationships and to develop intervention programs aimed at reducing the rate of work-related diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Facility Design and Construction / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology