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Roofers leaving job due to chronic pain

Dangerous jobs that are often physically demanding can see a higher than average exit from the industry or early retirement. A new study of 949 roofers age 40 – 59, by the Silver Spring, MD-based Center for Construction Research and Training, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, found 10% left the roofing trade within a year, and of those leaving, 60 percent left their job due to chronic pain, work-related musculoskeletal disorders and poor health.

The researchers categorized and compared the health status of the employed and retired roofers and found those who left work during the study were older, had significantly lower physical functioning and general health scores, more bodily pain, marginally lower vitality scores, and more diagnosed musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) and/or medical conditions, were more likely to have missed work and have more work limitations in the two years prior to the initial interview.

With the number of workers over age 55 increasing at an annual rate of 2.5% and a projected shortage of skilled construction workers, the study casts an unwelcome light onto the future of the industry workforce. The principal investigator and lead author of the article, Laura Welch, MD, is quoted in a news release: “A 54-year-old worker is considered to be in his or her prime in most industries. They’re knowledgeable, experienced and can serve as mentors to younger workers. But construction puts extremely high demands on the body, day after day. And workers are in high-hazard environments. When you have chronic low back pain, as many of these workers do, you’re lucky to get to work every day.”

The release concludes that the study’s identification of risk factors for leaving the trade – age and physically demanding work – point to a need to modify work practices, a change in work organization or modifying risk factors to prevent disability and the attendant economic impact.

The study was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.