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July 1989, Vol. 112, No. 7
Profiles in safety and health: work hazards of mobile homes
Martin E. Personick and Judy R. Daley
Homeownership, the great American dream, comes in many shapes and sizes. Traditionally, it is a detached home, townhouse, or condominium; but whatever that time-honored form, it is housing permanently built on a fixed site, in most instances by skilled construction workers and their helpers.
The mobile home, the subject of this article, does not square with this conventional image. It is built, not on location, but on factory assembly lines, and is then hauled on its wheels to a homeowner's site. Construction of mobile homes typically is carried out by workers trained on the job to do one of several standardized tasks, such as floor assembly.
Through the years, "manufactured housing" operations have experienced a high incidence of workplace accidents and injuries. Despite having been targeted for special study by Federal safety officials in the early 1970's, mobile home manufacturing has remained among the top 10 high-risk industries, as measured by Bureau of Labor Statistics annual surveys of occupational injuries and illnesses. At 28.9 per 100 full-time workers, the 1987 incidence rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in mobile homes was double that for construction industries (14.7)-the most hazardous major industry group-and more than triple that for private industries as a whole (8.3).1 (See table 1.)
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1 Incidence rates represent the number of injuries or illnesses, or both, per 100 full-time workers and were calculated as
N = number of injuries and/or illnesses;
EH = total hours worked by all employees of the industry during the calendar year; and
200,000 = base for 100 full-time equivalent workers (working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year).
A variety of useful incidence rates may be computed by making N equal to the number of injuries only, or the number of lost workday cases, or the number of lost workdays, and so forth. In each instance, the result is an estimate of the number of cases or days per 100 full-time workers.
Relative standard errors, which are a measure of the sampling error in the incidence rate, are in the 3 to 4 percent range for mobile homes. Therefore, year-to-year tracking of changes in the industry's rates should be avoided.
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