Work-related injuries among union drywall carpenters in Washington State, 1989–2008

Authors

  • Ashley L. Schoenfisch PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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  • Hester Lipscomb PhD,

    1. Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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  • Steve Marshall PhD,

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    2. UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Wilfred Cameron MS, CIH,

    1. Strategic Solutions for Safety, Health & Environment, Seattle, Washington
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  • David Richardson PhD,

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    2. UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Carri Casteel PhD

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    2. UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Correspondence to: Ashley L. Schoenfisch, PhD, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, 2200 West Main Street, Suite 400, Durham, North Carolina 27705.

Email: ashley.schoenfisch@duke.edu

Abstract

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. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:1137–1148, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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