Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

The Effectiveness of a Construction Worksite Prevention Program on Work Ability, Health, and Sick Leave: Results from a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

The Effectiveness of a Construction Worksite Prevention Program on Work Ability, Health, and Sick Leave: Results from a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

Article excerpt

Oude Hengel KM, Blatter BM, van der Molen HF, Bongers PM, van der Beek AJ. The effectiveness of a construction worksite prevention program on work ability, health, and sick leave: results from a cluster randomized controlled trial. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2013;39(5):456-467. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3361

Objective This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of a prevention program on work ability, health, and sick leave targeted at construction worksites.

Methods A total of 15 departments (N=297 workers) from 6 construction companies participated in this cluster randomized controlled trial and were randomly allocated to the intervention (8 departments; N=171 workers) or control (7 departments; N=122 workers) group. The intervention consisted of two individual training sessions with a physical therapist aimed at lowering the physical workload, a rest-break tool to improve the balance between work and recovery, and two empowerment training sessions to increase the worker's influence at the worksite. Data on work ability, physical and mental health status, and musculoskeletal symptoms were collected at baseline, and at 3, 6, and 12 months follow-up. Sick leave data were obtained from the companies.

Results Overall, no differences in work ability [β 0.02, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) -0.34-0.37] or physical and mental health status (β -0.04, 95% CI -1.43-1.35, and β 0.80 95% CI -0.51-2.11, respectively) were found between the intervention and control group. The intervention showed an overall decline in musculoskeletal symptoms (ranging from OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.34-1.33, to OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.47-1.57) and long-term sick leave (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.13-1.26) among construction workers. Both reductions were not statistically significant.

Conclusion The prevention program seemed to result in a beneficial but not statistically significant decline in the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms and long-term sick leave among construction workers, but showed no effects with regard to work ability, physical health, and mental health.

Key terms construction industry; construction worker; empowerment; health promotion; physical workload; sustainable employability.

In the next decades, a shortage of workers is expected in the Dutch construction industry due to a delay in young workers entering the labor force (1). In addition, many workers are expected to leave the labor force before the official retirement age (2). The age of retirement among Dutch construction workers has been strongly influenced by collective agreements, which offer the opportunity of retiring at the age of 62, instead of the official retirement age of 65. In order to face the challenges of the expected shortages, it is considered necessary that construction workers extend their working life until their official retirement age. However, due to their physical workload, construction workers run an increased risk for sick leave (3) and disability pension (4). Thus, retaining the labor force in the construction industry is not only a matter of raising the retirement age in collective agreements, but also a matter of improving the ability and intention of workers to remain in the labor force (5).

To support the sustainable employability of construction workers, policies and intervention programs focusing on work ability and health appear to be useful. Focusing on these factors could be beneficial as they are major contributors of sustainable employability. Previous studies have shown that blue-collar workers with a poor work ability are at an increased risk for early retirement (6), and poor work ability predicted long-term sick leave (3, 4, 6) and disability pensions (4, 7). Regarding health, a poor physical and mental health status was associated with a diminished ability to continue working until the age of 65 (8), whereas other studies have also found an association between physical health and early retirement (9) and disability pensions (9, 10). …

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