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Chart Book (6th edition): Hazards and Exposures - O*NET Database and Occupational Exposures in Construction

32. O*NET Database and Occupational Exposures in Construction

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. O*NET provides detailed standardized for based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC; see page 25).1 The exposure data are selected from O*NET’s Work Context –Work Conditions, which rates various work conditions and hazards measured by exposure frequency scores for each occupation. A score of zero means that workers are never exposed to a given hazard, whereas a score of 100 is assigned when exposure occurs on a daily basis or continually.2

According to the O*NET measures, many construction occupations require working at heights on a daily basis, which increases the risk of falls to a lower level (see pages 43-45). Elevator installers, roofers, ironworkers, and power-line installers are exposed to heights on the job almost every day (chart 32a). Painters, sheet metal workers, electricians, and ironworkers spend at least half of their work time climbing ladders, scaffolds, or poles (chart 32b). Ironworkers and insulation workers are routinely required to maintain their balance while working at heights (chart 32c). It is estimated that more than 76% of workers in construction production occupations work at heights at least once a month, and 37% climb ladders or scaffolds during at least half of their work time.2

Construction jobs also involve other hazardous exposures (e.g., electricity), equipment (e.g., cranes), and tools (e.g., nail guns). Elevator installers are exposed to hazardous conditions almost daily, followed by power-line installers (chart 32d). Overall, 79% of workers in construction production occupations are likely to be exposed to hazardous equipment at least once a week (chart 32e).2 These hazards increase the risk of electrocutions, being struck by an object, and other types of fatal and nonfatal injuries (see pages 43, 46, and 47). In addition, almost all construction jobs are exposed to distracting or uncomfortable levels of noise at least once a month (chart 32e),2 which may cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL; see page 50), cardiovascular disease, and other health disorders.3-5 Ironworkers, again, exceed all other construction occupations in terms of noise exposure.2 

Although the O*NET provides an indication of risks for detailed occupations, estimates are based on generalized work contexts rather than specific occupational exposure assessments. For instance, while most welders report rarely or never being exposed to heights at work (chart 32a), a small percentage of welders report working at heights once a week or more.1 Given the variability and potential interactions among occupational exposures in construction, information in chart book pages using O*NET data should be interpreted with caution, in particular for occupations encountered in multiple industries.

Exposure data from O*NET and other sources are combined and presented by major type of exposures in this chart book (see pages 32-36).


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1. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. O*NET OnLine, (Accessed April 2017). All data on this page are from O*NET unless otherwise specified. The O*NET data were initially collected from occupation analysts, and are updated annually by ongoing surveys of workers and occupation experts. More information is available at

2. The O*NET respondents are asked about working conditions and exposures. For example, “How often does your current job require you to work outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?” The question includes a five-level scale from (1) Never to (5) Every day. Exposure predictions were estimated by the CPWR Data Center using O*NET exposure scores with the data from the BLS 2014-2024 Employment Projections (Accessed April 2017). For occupations grouped in the BLS data, but listed separately in the O*NET, work contexts were averaged.

3. Kerr MJ, Neitzel RL, Hong O, Sataloff RT. 2017. Historical review of efforts to reduce noise-induced hearing loss in the United States. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 60(6): 569-577.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2016. Hearing impairment among noise-exposed workers – United States, 2003-2012. Morbidity  and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(15): 389-394.

5. Recio A, Linares C, Banegas JR, Diaz J. 2016. Road traffic noise effects on cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic health: An integrative model of biological mechanisms. Environmental Research, 146: 359-370.



Charts 32a, 32d, and 32e – Exposure scores: 0 = Never; 25 = Once a year or more but not every month; 50 = Once a month or more but not every week; 75 = Once a week or more but not every day; and 100 = Every day.

Charts 32b and 32c – Exposure scores: 0 = Never; 25 = Less than half the time; 50 = About half the time; 75 = More than half the time; and 100 = Continually or almost continually.



Charts 32a-32d – O*NET OnLine. 2015. Work context: Physical work conditions, (Accessed April 2017).

Chart 32e– O*NET OnLine. 2015. Work context: Physical work conditions, (Accessed April 2017). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014-2024 Employment projections. Table 1.9. 2014-2024 Industry-occupation matrix data, by industry, (Accessed April 2017). Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.


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