Exposure to chemical agents in the Spanish construction sector: A risk assumed and accepted by workers


Background: The weak preventive culture among workers in the construction sector leads to the underestimation of risks posed by the presence or handling of chemical agents on-site and, consequently, harms workers’ health.

Objective: The objectives of this paper are to classify exposure to chemical agents present or used on-site, determine workers’ perception of said agents and establish the influence that socio-demographic variables have on chemical agent exposure and the perception of such exposure.

Methods: A total of 490 workers in the Spanish construction sector participated in this study. The data were gathered through a self-administered questionnaire that explored socio-demographic characteristics, the degree of exposure to chemical agents, attitudes toward exposure and the prevention of consequences. The underlying dimensions of perception were researched using an adapted version of the questionnaire used by the Paul Slovic group to apply the psychometric paradigm.

Results: The levels of exposure to and handling of chemical agents found in the sample were high and moderate, respectively. The participants were found to have advanced knowledge about the effects of exposure, with the majority of the workers considering the probability of suffering a serious disease to be low. Statistically significant associations were found between the socio-demographic variables identified in the sample and the various exposure characteristics. A factor analysis performed on the underlying dimensions of perception provided a final version of the instrument comprising two factors.

Conclusion: Measures are needed to improve the preventive culture among workers in the construction sector and reinforce on-site preventive measures aimed at preventing or minimising the consequences of exposure to chemical agents.

Authors: Eduardo Simal, Joaquín Catalá, José M Arnal
; Full Source: Work (Reading, Mass.) 2022 Dec 8. doi: 10.3233/WOR-211420.