Majority of construction workers at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection: CPWR

Three out of five construction workers have at least one high-risk factor for a serious COVID-19 infection
A construction worker helps a fellow worker. © Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime.com

Nearly 60% of construction workers have at least one factor that makes them high-risk of getting severely ill should they get COVID-19, according to an analysis released in late May by the CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

Colorado has now entered the safer-at-home stage of coronavirus quarantine, meaning essential businesses are open and nonessential businesses are reopening with restrictions. As the state begins to open, and home builders operate under eased restrictions, we must also continue to monitor statistics for essential businesses who have been in operation.

[Related: Professional home builders are still needed and here’s why]

CPWR released its May 2020 data bulletin, with a focus on those in the construction industry who are at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. The organization used data from the Current Population Survey and the National Health Interview Survey for its analysis. 

We have predicted that buyers will be looking to build new homes, and with the threat of a second wave of the virus, people may be pushed to move quickly. With that, the health and safety of construction workers must be considered, and statistics show a significant percentage of workers falling into many demographics that propose a higher risk factor. One high risk factor to be considered is age, according to the CDC, which starts measuring increased risk factor at ages 65 and older. While average age varies between specific occupations across the construction industry, as of 2019, the average age of a construction worker is slightly above workers of all industries at 42.7.  Truck drivers have the largest 65-plus population within construction.

NHIS data show increased risk for those with underlying health conditions, and even more so when combined with older age, CPWR found. 

Specific conditions highlighted by the CDC include asthma and liver disease. According to CPWR’s analysis, more construction workers (2.7%) currently have a liver disease than workers in all labor industries combined (2.3%). 

Nearly 20% of all construction workers have some form of respiratory disease, and 4.8% have asthma specifically. The bulletin highlighted that the construction industry has a higher percentage of smokers than other industries, another factor that poses an increased risk of severe illness if infected.

The data also identifies comorbidities, or simultaneously occurring conditions, that occur in hospitalized construction workers with COVID-19, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity. These have been identified as conditions that may increase the burden on the affected person should they become infected with coronavirus.

As the building industry as a whole seeks to avoid layoffs and move toward getting back to business as usual for everyone, these statistics regarding the health disparities in construction industries are important to keep in mind.

Read our continued coverage of coronavirus news in the building industry.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly abbreviated the National Health Interview Survey as NIHS. This article has been corrected. 

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