Austin, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – A recent study of construction workers in the Austin, Texas area posed the question of whether or not there was an increased risk of community transmission of COVID-19, and a disproportionate morbidity rate among workers. The study, published in last month’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested that construction workers are at greater risk of hospitalization.
Statistics have shown that COVID-19 infection and mortality rates are higher among minorities. Across the U.S., around 30 percent of construction workers are Hispanic, 7 percent are African American, and 5 percent are other minorities. In the Austin area however, the rate of Hispanic workers is 66 percent with a 4 percent rate of African Americans.
According to a report from The Institute For Hispanic Health, Hispanics are 50 percent more likely to die from disease than non-Hispanic Whites due to conditions and care access issues. Hispanics also have a higher rate of obesity at 39.1 percent of the population, and 14.2 percent have two or more chronic conditions.
Infection risk is compounded on the work site by the fact that around 24 percent of construction workers do not have health insurance. That rate is even higher among Hispanic construction workers at 48 percent uninsured, resulting in lack of access to preventative care and maintenance of chronic conditions that are at greater risk of death from COVID-19 according to the CDC.
Additionally, higher smoking rates and exposure to hazardous materials on construction sites increases the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19.
The researchers said that in Mid-May the Austin Public Health had identified 19 cluster cases of COVID-19 of which 3 had included workers in the construction industry. By July, there were 23 additional clusters. From the 515 hospital case reports, 15 percent of the cases were construction workers aged 18 to 64.
The study found a correlation between increased hospitalization rates and unrestricted construction work. Hospitalization rates through mid-August increased from .38 to 1.5 per 1000 residents. The hospitalization rate among construction workers during the same period of time increased from .22 to 9.3 per 1,000 construction workers. Additionally, the researchers concluded that construction workers in the Austin area are 4.9 times as likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19.
Researchers estimated that safety measures such as disinfection of equipment between uses, wearing protective gear, limiting worker numbers, and monitoring health conditions lowered the risk of infection by 50 percent.
The full study is free to view on the JAMA website.