being struck by vehicles and equipment, electrocution, machine-related incidents, and being struck by objects (NIOSH, 2007). Significant health risks include hearing loss, silicosis, musculoskeletal disorders, skin diseases, and health effects associated with exposures to lead, asphalt fumes, and welding fumes. Additional health hazards and associated diseases include fume fever (metal, polymer), cadmium poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning, acute inhalation injury (nitrogen dioxide, ozone, phosgene), manganese poisoning,1 asbestosis,2 acute solvent syndrome,3 peripheral neuropathy,4 allergic contact dermatitis,5 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,6 occupational asthma,7 and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.8

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-596) to “conduct (directly or by grants or contracts) research, experiments, and demonstrations relating to occupational safety and health, including studies of psychological factors involved, and relating to innovative methods, techniques, and approaches for dealing with occupational safety and health problems.” As a research agency, NIOSH does not have the authority to establish and enforce regulations on workforce safety and health. Regulatory and enforcement authority rests with other organizations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which was created by the same Public Law 91-596 that established NIOSH. Organizationally, NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while OSHA is an agency in the U.S. Department of Labor.

NIOSH has conducted construction-related research activities since the 1970s, including research on silicosis and on exposures to lead, asphalt fumes, and welding fumes. The program was formalized in 1990 when Congress allocated specific funds with which it directed NIOSH to develop a comprehensive prevention program focused on health and safety problems affecting construction workers by expanding existing NIOSH activities in the areas of surveillance, research, and intervention.


Manganese poisoning is a toxic condition resulting from chronic exposure to manganese, usually as the result of lead or arc welding.


Asbestosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.


Acute solvent syndrome results from acute exposure to toxic cleaners, degreasers, and solvents.


Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage caused by trauma from external agents.


Allergic contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an irritating substance.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused by prolonged exposure to fumes, dust, or fibers resulting in lung damage.


Occupational asthma is a lung disorder in which various substances found in the workplace lead to breathing difficulties.


Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an inflammation of the lungs due to breathing in a foreign substance, usually certain types of dust, fungus, or molds.

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