Pollution is linked to workplace accidents

Pollution is linked to workplace accidents

Air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year. A lesser-known fact is that polluted air increases the likelihood of accidents in the workplace. Victor LaVey, Genia Raschkowski And Omry Yoresh Monitoring daily air pollution levels at 24,614 construction sites in Israel from 2017 to 2019 and linking this data with information on daily incidents at each site. They found evidence of an economically and statistically significant effect of air pollution exposure on construction-related injuries and deaths.


Omri Jurich will present this work on Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Nine out of ten people worldwide breathe polluted air, causing an estimated seven million premature deaths each year, according to a World Health Organization report. There is a high demand for research that identifies and highlights the potential impacts of air pollution. The effects of air pollution on society are the focus of a growing literature in many disciplines, including economics, that attempts to broaden the scope beyond direct health outcomes (see Aguilar-Gomez, Dwyer, Graff Zivin, and Neidell, 2022, for a study Modern (reconnaissance).

We contribute to this literature by examining the effects of air pollution on work accidents, which are important and less studied factors of labor market productivity. Work-related accidents, in which construction workers are at particular risk, cause an estimated 360,000 deaths worldwide each year and an estimated 26.5 million disability-adjusted life years, according to the 2021 World Health Organization and International Labor Organization report. Besides personal suffering, these results also translate into significant losses in productivity. According to a National Safety Council (NSC) report, in the United States alone, productivity and wage losses from work-related accidents totaled $44.8 billion in 2020. In the European Union, in 2017, the costs of work-related accidents and illnesses accounted for about 3.3 percent of GDP (Elsler, Takala, and Remes, 2017).

Using information from local observers, we monitor daily local air pollution levels at 24,614 construction sites in Israel from 2017 to 2019 and link this data with information on daily incidents at each construction site, resulting in a total of more than 10 million daily observations. We found evidence of an economically and statistically significant effect of air pollution exposure on construction-related injuries and deaths, even at subclinical levels. We have identified the strongest effect from one of the major pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2Its primary source is the combustion of fuel resulting from transportation and industrial works.

We find that a 1 standard deviation increase in NO2 Levels (moving from average air pollution levels to 85y Pollution percentile) increases the probability of an accident by 45 percent compared to the average daily probability. As shown in Figure 1, the strongest effects occur on highly polluted days, at levels associated with moderate and unhealthy pollution levels by the US EPA, the lower limit of which roughly corresponds to 96y And 99y Percentages in our sample. At these levels, the probability of an accident increases by a staggering 138 and 377 percent, respectively, compared to levels classified as clean air (below 54 ppb, 96 ppb).y centenary).

Figure 1. Impact of increased air pollution on construction site accidents

Notes: The solid line represents the estimated relationship between NO2 levels and the probability of an accident at a construction site. The dashed line represents the liner connection. Increased probability of an accident compared to the average daily probability of clean air. Vertical lines indicate the percentage of contamination level. Colors represent the ranges of clean (green), moderate (yellow) and unhealthy (red) air pollution.

We support a causal interpretation of our results by considering changes in pollution levels within each construction site and by taking into account other factors potentially associated with work accidents, such as wind, humidity, temperature levels, seasonality, and the presence of other pollutants. The random change in the direction of the wind carrying pollutants towards the construction site was also taken advantage of to isolate the effects of pollution from alternative explanations. We also take advantage of the high frequency of measurements and the high density and spatial distribution of air pollution monitoring stations in our data, to measure same-day pollution with pollution levels from the previous night and pollution from measuring stations far from the construction site, to strengthen the causal inference of our results.

As a next step, we focused on potential mechanisms of effect. Doctors and epidemiologists have studied the effects of air pollution on health outcomes. They found that even short-term exposure to low levels of pollution may affect the cardiovascular and respiratory systems (Brook and Rajagopalan, 2007; Viehmann et al., 2015) as well as brain function (Forman and Finch, 2018), which in turn may cause fatigue. and poor motor function, lack of concentration, and impatience (Siegel and Crockett, 2013; Delgado-Saborit et al., 2021). These physiological findings provide potential mechanisms consistent with our findings, whereby pollution-induced fatigue and decreased cognition may increase the likelihood of a construction accident.

Interestingly, by examining the interaction of NO2 levels with worker fatigue and cognitive stress, we find evidence that the harmful effects of NO2 Accidents are exacerbated under conditions of stressful physiological conditions for workers such as those that occur on extremely hot, windy or humid days. Our setting and the finding linking the effects of pollution to cognitive stress may provide evidence for the importance of exposure to pollution in mentally and physically strenuous environments outside of construction site work, such as those of first responders, doctors, and other high-risk occupations.

Policymakers can mitigate the harmful effects of pollution in several ways. Reducing pollution by reducing permissible emission levels, increasing public awareness, facilitating pollution mitigation through avoidance behavior and improving the treatment of its negative effects are some potential focus areas for relevant interventions. In this study, we focus on policies related to facilitating pollution avoidance behavior. We use cost-benefit analysis to determine the economic feasibility of closing government-subsidized construction sites in times of severe pollution. We combine our findings on the effects of pollution on the probability of accidents with reports by the Ministry of Finance, the National Insurance Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics on costs to the government due to construction accidents and average construction site closure costs.

Using this data, we then calculate the potential economic savings to the government from the reduced probability of an accident and find the maximum level of support, conditional on local pollution levels, that the government can offer each contractor to shut down its daily operations without accumulating any losses. Each contractor can then decide whether it is worthwhile accepting the offer given the costs incurred from closing the site for the day. We have found that, in our setting, the policy may become relevant for very high pollution levels and construction sites at the minimum potential losses from temporary closures, when the probability of an accident is high enough to realize the expected benefits of avoiding workers’ insurance and the returns are large enough to offset Losses resulting from the costs of closing the construction site for the day.

Other mitigation channels are potential alternative or complementary solutions. These include targeted interventions based on data-driven predictions about accident-prone construction sites; Raise contractors’ and workers’ awareness of the potential harmful effects of ambient air and provide adaptation strategies; Invest in safety measures, training, safety standards, scaffolding, individual pollution sensors, respirators, and other relevant equipment.

The death or severe injury of a worker has devastating consequences for the worker, his or her family, and society that far exceed the economic costs estimated in this paper. Given the relatively high number of deaths and serious injuries in construction, we must do everything we can to identify possible causes and solutions that can mitigate this problem. In the current paper, we identify one such potential cause, air pollution, and propose potential solutions and a roadmap to analyze their feasibility.



    (Tags for translation)Air 

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