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Swedish construction workers and their opportunity and the need for preventive health are being investigated by researchers at Luleå University of Technology View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Health prevention in the construction industry is investigated

Published: 14 September 2015

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology will investigate the Swedish construction industry's need for preventive work in occupational health and safety (OHS). In the early 1990s, the construction industries own occupational health service, Bygghälsan, was closed down. Both employers and unions are now calling for greater expertise in these issues.

– There is a catch 22 in the OHS in the Swedish construction industry. The construction industry is not asking for today's occupational health services for its lack of the right skills. Occupational health services, in turn cannot develop specific skills for the construction industry, because its services are not in demand, says Leif Berglund researcher in industrial production environment at Luleå University of Technology.

One of the problems of the construction industry are grappling with in Sweden today is that there can be big differences in knowledge in education and skills between big construction companies and smaller sub-contractors in the areas of OHS. In many construction projects companies who are working together have different ideas and cultures when it comes to work environment and safety. This applies especially for sub-contractors with foreign labor.

– The survey of needs, skills and range of services of occupational health in the construction industry aims to make visible the construction industry's specific needs for health prevention, says Leif Berglund.

Lack of coordination on OHS in the construction industry

In the years 1968 -1993 there were in the construction industry a party joint body, Bygghälsan. It was an occupational health service which generated specific knowledge and expertise in the construction sector, particularly by visiting construction sites and offering regular health care where the health of construction workers were examined in surveys and various tests. The activities led to an extensive data set and as a result of it the industry could make several important decisions regarding, for example, noise, stress, eczema, and not least the use of asbestos in the construction industry.

Today occupational health service in the construction industry is divided on many local players without central coordination. Employers and unions experience that the various occupational health companies' competence in the construction industry is not comprehensive and that it lacks breadth. Because of this construction companies usually only buys a basic set of health services from the occupational health services.

Leif Berglund och Maria Johansson, forskare vid Luleå tekniska universitet
Leif Berglund and Maria Johansson, the researchers behind the project in industrial production environment at Luleå University of Technology.

– The construction industry´s need of support within the area of OHS must become clearer. The services of the occupational health services are now used mainly by construction companies for health checks, even though the occupational health services generally have great knowledge of the systematic work environment, ergonomics and methods to prevent illness and accidents. It must be more clear both what skills the occupational health services have but also what is missing, says Leif Berglund.

Needs and services investigated

The researchers at Luleå University will conduct a combined interview- and questionnaire study targeting the Swedish Construction Federation, affiliated unions, supervisors / managers, safety officers and employees of the former Bygghälsan. The researchers will also take stock of the services offered to the construction industry through occupational health service, primary care, and consultants focused on OHS. Representatives from the Swedish federation of occupational health services will also be interviewed.

The research project is funded by AFA and SBUF (construction industry organization for research and development).

Leif Berglund

Leif Berglund, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 493087
Organisation: Human Work Sciences, Humans and Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences