The Construction Research Program’s research agenda has evolved over time on the basis of identified health and safety needs in the construction industry:
Phase 1: 1990-1995—The research agenda focuses on needs assessment and developing surveillance capacity.
Phase 2: 1996-2004—The first National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA1) focuses on risk-specific intervention research, including a special focus on musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics.
Phase 3: 2005 and beyond—NORA2 focuses on translation and diffusion of research (research-to-practice).
During each of the three phases, multiple methods were used to identify new and emerging issues. The next phase of priority setting will be focused on the second iteration of the National Occupational Research Agenda. NORA2 differs from NORA1 in being sector-based; one of the sectors is construction.1 The intent is to expedite the translation of research into practice in the workplace. The NORA Construction Sector Council will play a key role in bringing together researchers and practitioners to identify and prioritize the challenges and related research needs facing the construction industry now and in the future. The Construction Sector Council will also need to coordinate with other sector councils to explore and prioritize some crosscutting topics, for example, that of workers struck by vehicles or equipment on road projects, which affects both the construction and transportation sectors.
In the evidence package provided to the committee (NIOSH, 2007), the NIOSH program staff noted that many of the predominant characteristics of the construction industry that currently have an impact on health and safety on the job site (e.g., short-term contracting, the predominance of small employers with high turnover among their employees, temporary employment, multiple-employer worksites, a multicultural workforce, and episodic exposure to risks) will not change significantly. The staff also identified a number of anticipated changes that may have safety and health implications for the future. These changes, which may warrant targeted research activities, include the likelihood that financing costs, project management costs, and costs of supplies, technology, equipment, and energy will rise. Such cost increases may lead construction company owners in some segments of the industry to pursue cost savings by hiring more unskilled, lower-paid workers; engaging in subcontracting rather than direct hiring of prime contractors; and/or