Academic journal article Human Factors

Effectiveness of an Intervention to Increase Construction Workers' Use of Hearing Protection

Academic journal article Human Factors

Effectiveness of an Intervention to Increase Construction Workers' Use of Hearing Protection

Article excerpt

In this project we tested the effectiveness of a theory-based intervention (video, pamphlets, and guided practice session) to increase the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) among Midwestern construction workers and a national group of plumber/pipefitter trainers. Posttest measures were collected 10-12 months following this intervention. Pender's Health Promotion Model (1987) provided the conceptual basis for development of the training program. A total of 837 high-noise-exposed workers were included in the analysis: 652 regional Midwestern construction workers and 185 national plumber/pipefitter trainers. Effectiveness of the intervention was determined through the sequence of analyses recommended by Braver and Braver (1988) for the Solomon Four-Group Design. Analysis of variance and covariance of postintervention use and intention to use HPDs and a meta-analytic test were done. These analyses indicated that the intervention significantly increased use of HPDs but had no effect on intention to use HPDs in the future. Pretesting had no effect on use. Actual or potential applications of this research include guidance in the development of successful theory-based interventions to increase use of HPDs.

INTRODUCTION

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that exposure to hazardous noise in the workplace is a problem for more than 30 million workers in the United States (NIOSH, 1996a). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has mandated hearing conservation programs and safety standards related to work site noise (U.S. Department of Labor, 1983). As part of this standard, employers are required to use engineering or administrative controls whenever possible to reduce noise. When it is not possible to achieve these controls, hearing protection devices (HPDs) should be used to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Noise exposure and subsequent hearing loss are reduced by the use of HPDs -- namely, ear plugs and ear muffs (Sataloff & Sataloff, 1986; Savell & Toothman, 1987).

Prior studies have examined the efficacy of HPDs (Abel, Alberti, Haythornwaite, & Riko, 1982; Berger, 1980; Sataloff & Sataloff, 1986), but relatively few have examined factors related to workers' use of HPDs. Although no comprehensive database is available regarding the extent of use of HPDs, it has been shown that many workers do not use HPDs on a regular basis. In a study of factory workers, Lusk, Ronis, and Baer (1995) found inadequate HPD use in high-noise environments (observed M = 54%, self-reported M = 62%). Additionally, in an earlier phase of the study reported here, construction workers reported even lower use of HPDs (operating engineers M = 49%, carpenters M = 18%, plumber/pipe-fitters M = 31%; see Lusk, Kerr, & Kauffman, 1998). However, work site characteristics differ in a number of ways for construction workers as compared with factory workers, and many factors unique to the construction industry affect workers' use of HPDs.

As a group, construction workers have the highest rates of work-related injury and illness in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). Among these injuries, NIHL is the most common occupational hazard faced by these workers (Center to Protect Workers' Rights, 1998); about 500 000 construction workers are exposed daily to harmful levels of noise (NIOSH, 1996b). In many cases, these workers are employed by more than one firm or work at multiple job sites each day. Construction workers are also exposed to varying amounts of noise, not only from their own equipment and activities but also from the tools and activities of others working around them (Franks, 1990; Hager, 1998). Noise on a construction site is less amenable to engineering controls than is noise in the manufacturing sector, and construction workers may have little control over their environment. Although OSHA mandates hearing conservation programs for factory workers (U. …

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