Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original article
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers in the United States from 1992 to 2014
  1. Xuanwen Wang1,
  2. Xiuwen Sue Dong1,
  3. Sang D Choi2,
  4. John Dement3
  1. 1CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Department of Occupational & Environmental Safety & Health, University of Wisconsin—Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin, USA
  3. 3Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Xiuwen Sue Dong, CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training, 8484 Georgia Avenue, Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA; SDong{at}


Objectives Examine trends and patterns of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) among construction workers in the USA, with an emphasis on older workers.

Methods WMSDs were identified from the 1992–2014 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), and employment was estimated from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Risk of WMSDs was measured by number of WMSDs per 10 000 full-time equivalent workers and stratified by major demographic and employment subgroups. Time series analysis was performed to examine the trend of WMSDs in construction.

Results The number of WMSDs significantly dropped in the US construction industry, following the overall injury trends. However, the rate of WMSDs in construction remained higher than in all industries combined; the median days away from work increased from 8 days in 1992 to 13 days in 2014, and the proportion of WMSDs for construction workers aged 55 to 64 years almost doubled. By occupation, construction labourers had the largest number of WMSD cases, while helpers, heating and air-conditioning mechanics, cement masons and sheet metal workers had the highest rates of WMSDs. The major cause of WMSDs in construction was overexertion, and back injuries accounted for more than 40% of WMSDs among construction workers. The estimated wage loss for private wage-and-salary construction workers was $46 million in 2014.

Conclusions Construction workers continue to face a higher risk of WMSDs. Ergonomic solutions that reduce overexertion—the primary exposure for WMSDs—should be adopted extensively at construction sites, particularly for workers with a higher risk of WMSDs.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors XW was involved in acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the manuscript, and approved the final version. XSD was involved in research, conception and design, data interpretation, drafting the article and revising it critically for important intellectual content and approved the final version of the manuscript. SDC and JD was involved in research, conception, data interpretation, drafting the article and approved the final version.

  • Funding This study is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) grant U60OH009762. The contents of this study are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.