Many Construction Workers Face ‘Overlapping’ COVID Risks
We all know construction workers are at higher risk for workplace injuries than people in most other professions. A new study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests they are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, too.
UT researchers found that construction workers in central Texas were five times as likely to be hospitalized in Austin with the coronavirus as workers in other occupations. Researchers speculated these workers were more vulnerable because construction has continued throughout the pandemic, even during stay-home orders. Close contact with others, practices by employers and demographic factors also likely contributed.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to stop construction work,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. . “It means we need to go to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of workers when they do go to work.”
Meyers suggested workers should be encouraged to take basic precautions such as wearing masks and physically distancing on the work site. Paid sick leave and other incentives to stay home when they have a known exposure or have mild symptoms would also help to help mitigate risk. Regular COVID-19 testing (with effective tracing and isolation of detected cases) is also recommended.
The study noted that central Texas construction workers are disproportionately Hispanic, and many are uninsured or in close contact with people who have limited access to healthcare. Compared with the general population, they also experience more underlying health conditions linked to severe cases of COVID-19.
“These workers face many overlapping risks and are being exposed at a time when less vulnerable populations are able to stay home,” Meyers said in a statement.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open, a subsidiary of the Journal of the American Medical Association.