Leanna Gordon

Project title: The Relationship Between Work-life Balance, Stress, and Injury in Construction Trade Workers

Degree: MPH | Program: Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2019 | Faculty advisor: June T. Spector


Objectives: The construction industry is characterized by a high burden of occupational injuries. In addition to physical risk factors, psychosocial risk factors such as work-life balance can increase the risk for injury. Women, who are underrepresented in the construction trades, are disproportionally affected by these factors, which may increase the risk for adverse health outcomes. Women within the trades have been shown to struggle with work-life balance due to a number of factors including long work hours, difficulty finding child care, and ongoing responsibility for unpaid labor in the home. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between work-life balance, stress, and injury in construction trades workers in order to pave the way for changes in policy and practices within the trades that will allow for a safe working environment for all workers. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of data from the Safety and Health Empowerment for Women in Trades (SHEWT) study. We studied data obtained from 291 construction workers in Washington State who participated in the SHEWT survey. We used logistic regression to assess the association between: 1) work-life balance and perceived stress; and 2) the association between perceived stress and injury, adjusted for relevant confounders. Perceived stress was measured using the validated Perceived Stress Scale, and work-life balance was assessed using questions from the NIOSH Quality of Work Life Questionnaire. The presence or absence of injury was determined using questions which assessed whether or not trades workers had an injury in the last year which required medical attention, first aid, or time off work. In both analyses, we assessed for effect modification by gender. Results: Reporting poor work-life balance was associated with 4.38 (95% CI 1.87, 10.61) times the odds of high perceived stress, after adjustment for trade, age, and gender. Additionally, being a woman was associated with 2.38 (95% CI 1.23, 4.76) times the odds of high perceived stress when compared to being a man, after adjustment for work-life balance, trade, and age. High perceived stress was associated with 1.96 (95% CI 1.08-3.54) times the odds of injury, after adjustment for trade and gender. Additionally, being a woman was associated with 2.94 (95% CI 1.49-6.25) times the odds of injury when compared to being a man, after adjustment for stress and trade. There was no evidence of effect modification by gender in either analysis. Conclusions: This study demonstrated an association between poor work-life balance and perceived stress and between perceived stress and injury in construction trades workers. Women were at higher risk of high stress and injury compared to men, after adjustment for other factors. Future work should evaluate the effectiveness of efforts to address work-life balance and perceived stress in injury prevention efforts and to foster safe participation of women, in addition to men, in the construction trades. URI