Prevention through Design (PtD)

Prevention through Design (PtD) was featured on Radio IQ. You can listen to an audio clip with the player below.

This NIOSH-sponsored project aims to perform, through previously developed survey methods, 1) an evaluation of Prevention through Design (PtD) Adoption Readiness among key decision-makers in high-risk construction trade sectors; 2) an analysis of current usage trends and perceptions of Prevention through Design (PtD) technologies and barriers to adoption in these sectors; and, 3) the development of intervention strategies, based upon these findings, to improve diffusion of PtD innovation within the construction industry. The trade sectors to be studied in the proposed research are: concrete/masonry operations, asphalt roofing, and welding. These trades are associated with some of the most pressing occupational health hazard risks in construction. Concrete and masonry operations have been associated with silicosis, increased incidence of tuberculosis, and malignant neoplasm of the lung. Epidemiologic studies of asphalt roofers have revealed an association between this exposure and prevalence of lung cancer and skin irritation. Studies suggest that occupational exposures to welding fumes may pose the risk of serious respiratory, neurological, and reproductive effects.

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Prevention through Design (PtD), eliminating hazards at the design-stage of tools, materials, equipment, and systems, is the optimal method of mitigating occupational health risks. A recent National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) initiative has established a goal to increase adoption of PtD innovation in industry. The construction industry has traditionally lagged behind other sectors in the adoption of innovation, in general; and of safety and health prevention innovation, in particular. PtD controls do exist to control the hazards associated with these construction operations. The extent to which they are currently employed in actual construction practice has yet to be documented. A baseline understanding of current usage trends is needed, in order to establish targets for PtD control adoption. Further, understanding the barriers that prevent the adoption of PtD technologies is needed so that future intervention strategies can advance diffusion within the construction industry. Therefore, the proposed work will document the current usage trends and barriers associated with PtD control technologies in the concrete, masonry, asphalt roofing, and welding trades.

Dust-control Usage: Strategic Technology Intervention

  • Ted Koebel, Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech
  • Enid Nicole Headen Montague, Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin
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The goal of project DUSTI is to develop an intervention that will improve adoption of dust control technology in the drywall finishing sector of the construction industry. This exploratory project, which builds upon previous work of the principal investigators, incorporates elements from two well-established theoretical frameworks: Diffusion of Innovation Model and Health Belief Model. While the proposed exploratory project will develop and validate the intervention in this specific industry sector, the research has, as its ultimate aim, a transformative increase in the adoption of engineering control technologies among construction firms, industry-wide. Therefore, the intervention model design will incorporate factors applicable to generalized construction industry firms.

Dusty Face Image

Respiratory disease among construction workers in general, and plasterers and wall finishers in particular, is a major public health concern. Workers in these trades suffer from disproportionately high rates of respiratory disease and disability. Drywall finishing operations have been associated with worker over-exposure to dust that contains known particulate respiratory health hazards, such as silica, talc, mica, and calcite. Despite the existence of effective engineering controls, such as ventilated sanders and low-dust drywall compound, worker exposures persist. Previous studies by the principal investigators identified key barriers to dust control technology adoption by the drywall finishing industry. Ventilated drywall sanding tools were found to be highly effective in reducing dust; however the industry usage rate was found to be very low. Interviews of firm owners and workers, and a laboratory tool comparison study, identified barriers that pertained to tool impacts to productivity, impacts to work quality, and worker perception of benefits and risk. Further, previous work examined construction industry characteristics that influence adoption of new technologies and identified strategies for enhanced innovation diffusion. The proposed work would translate these previous findings into an intervention strategy to improve drywall finishing firm dust-control adoption.

Dickerson's work on Construction Silica Control is noted in a recent OSHA publication. View the publication PDF Icon

Wearable Carbon Monoxide Sensor

  • Tom Martin and Jason Forsythe (GRA), Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech

This exploratory project applies an innovative technology, wearable computing, to the improvement of occupational health hazard exposure monitoring. By combining unobtrusive sensors and processors with everyday garments and equipment, wearable computing holds the promise of providing heightened awareness and individual feedback regarding environmental risks and the individual's physiological response to those risks, while minimizing or eliminating bulky sensing/warning equipment that could impede normal work activities.

The specific initial application of the technology, the subject of this R21 project, is to create a prototype for monitoring the occupational exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) of construction workers. The device would simultaneously monitor air concentration of CO and blood carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) saturation and provide multimodal warnings to workers in the event of overexposure. In contrast to the current state-of-the-art technology, our proposed system would not only give immediate warnings about acute danger but would also provide data-logging features to facilitate the study of chronic exposures and their impact on long-term health outcomes and psychomotor skill decrement and its impact on occupational accident causation.

While the proposed exploratory project, to establish proof-of-concept, will employ existing sensor technology in the development of a wearable product redesign, the long-range goal of the researchers is to springboard from this pilot prototype to the development of wearable computing applications to improve the monitoring of other airborne chemical exposures.

See research poster on this project, herepdf icon