Open Access Research article

Effectiveness of an intervention at construction worksites on work engagement, social support, physical workload, and need for recovery: results from a cluster randomized controlled trial

Karen M Oude Hengel12*, Birgitte M Blatter12, Catelijne I Joling34, Allard J van der Beek24 and Paulien M Bongers124

Author Affiliations

1 Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, P.O. Box 718, Hoofddorp, AS 2130, The Netherlands

2 Body@Work, Research Center on Physical Activity, Work and Health, TNO-VU/VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 365, Utrecht, The Netherlands

4 Department of Public and Occupational Health, the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1008  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1008

Published: 21 November 2012



To prolong sustainable healthy working lives of construction workers, a worksite prevention program was developed which aimed to improve the health and work ability of construction workers. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effectiveness of this program on social support at work, work engagement, physical workload and need for recovery.


Fifteen departments from six construction companies participated in this cluster randomized controlled trial; 8 departments (n=171 workers) were randomized to an intervention group and 7 departments (n=122 workers) to a control group. The intervention consisted of two individual training sessions of a physical therapist to lower the physical workload, a Rest-Break tool to improve the balance between work and recovery, and two empowerment training sessions to increase the influence of the construction workers at the worksite. Data on work engagement, social support at work, physical workload, and need for recovery were collected at baseline, and at three, six and 12 months after the start of the intervention using questionnaires.


No differences between the intervention and control group were found for work engagement, social support at work, and need for recovery. At 6 months follow-up, the control group reported a small but statistically significant reduction of physical workload.


The intervention neither improved social support nor work engagement, nor was it effective in reducing the physical workload and need for recovery among construction workers.

Trial registration


Construction industry; Sustainable employability; Intervention study; Empowerment; Physical therapist