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Construction workers with limited experience are more likely to be injured on the job, according to a new study of workers’ compensation claims conducted by researchers at UT’s Construction Industry Research and Policy Center (CIRPC).

“Time on the job is often mentioned as an important factor in employee safety,” said Ed Taylor, executive director of the CIRPC. “The workers’ compensation findings provide empirical support to the popular observation that new workers are especially prone to injury.”

Taylor also found that giving more attention to onboarding and training new workers would likely improve safety in the industry.

Taylor and a team at CIRPC examined construction injuries in Tennessee from 2014 and 2015, looking for the nature, cause, and which body parts were injured, along with the age, gender, and tenure of the injured workers.

“A remarkable portion of workers’ compensation injuries are experienced by workers early in their employment,” Taylor says. “For the two-year period in Tennessee under study, 44.5 percent of injuries were sustained by those with a year or less of tenure. For those with tenure of six months or less, the percentage is an even more startling 30.1 percent.”

Additional observations from the CIRPC:

  • Experience had no bearing on the types and causes of injuries among workers. Muscle strains were the leading type of injury overall, accounting for 31.7 percent, and the leading injury among workers with less than a year of experience, accounting for 29.3 percent.
  • Construction firms with fewer than five employees had the highest injury rate. The frequency of injuries decreased as the size of the firms increased, according to the study, which linked workers’ compensation data with unemployment data for these findings.
  • While the CIRPC examined data from Tennessee, several other states report comparable figures. In Washington, the zero- to six-month injury estimate is 31.7 percent and for the zero- to 12-month period is 47.5 percent. In Ohio, the rates are 33.6 percent and 45.6 percent. This evidence from other states suggests that a heavy concentration of injuries among those with limited employment experience is not limited to Tennessee.

CIRPC received a grant from the Center for Construction Research and Training to analyze new data from workers’ compensation records and explore relationships relevant to workplace safety.

“Access to workers’ compensation data provides an important supplement to the regularly collected Occupational Health and Safety Administration injury data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” said Taylor.

Data involved in the study of construction workers was a byproduct of a more extensive study of Tennessee workers’ compensation records, funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.


Gerhard Schneibel (865-974-2894,

Megan Boehnke (865-974-3242,