Construction Workers and COVID-19

Study Shows Construction Workers at Greater Risk

According to a report from the Center for Construction Research and Training, more than half of all construction workers in the United States are at risk of severe complications related to the coronavirus. The report attributes that increased susceptibility to a number of factors:/p>

  • There’s a significantly higher incidence of smoking among construction workers.
  • Construction workers have a greater risk of contracting asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition (formerly known as emphysema) that restricts airflow to the lungs. A 2018 study found that one in every five construction workers had been diagnosed with either COPD or asthma.
  • The average age of construction workers (like that of much of the American workforce)has risen in recent years, with more than one in every 10 (approximately 12 %) over the age of 60, including 7.7% who are laborers.
  • Construction workers also have higher rates of other serious illnesses—about 25% are diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, or disease of the kidney, heart, or liver.
  • The rate of obesity among construction workers also is higher than other occupations, with 43% of construction workers categorized as obese, compared to 35% of all other workers.

Many construction workers exhibit more than one of these risk factors, dramatically increasing their chance of contracting the virus and experiencing detrimental health consequences.

Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19

As a general rule, you can seek workers’ compensation if you can prove you were exposed to the virus during the course of your employment. In September 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill creating a rebuttable presumption that certain “essential workers” are entitled to workers’ compensation for COVID-19 contracted during a public health emergency. The statute includes construction workers as “essential employees.” Accordingly, a construction worker who contracts the virus is presumed eligible for workers’ comp benefits, but an employer may overcome that presumption with sufficient evidence.

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