Construction Fatalities and Injury Rates on the Increase

To recognize Safety Week 2017, which runs from May 1-5,  here are some construction safety statistics that are unfortunately on the increase.

The total number of construction worker deaths have steadily increased the past few years. A very small number of construction deaths are the result of true accidents. The industry needs to do more to curb this increasing trend by creating and promoting a safe work environment. Improving construction worker safety is the only way to reduce these numbers and protect all workers.

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4% Increase in Occupational Fatalities over 2014

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released their 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and the construction industry once again topped the list with 937 worker deaths. This is about a 4% increase in occupational fatalities over the 899 reported for 2014. This is the largest number of construction worker deaths since 2008.


Fatal Injury Rate Increased from 9.8 to 10.1 per 100,000

The fatal injury rate increased from 9.8 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2014 to 10.1 in 2015. For all workers, the fatal injury rate was relatively unchanged going from 3.43 per 100,000 FTE in 2014 to 3.38 in 2015. For private industry, the rate of fatal occupational injuries dropped from 3.7 per 100,000 FTE in 2014 to 3.6 in 2015.

Despite accounting for the highest total of worker deaths, the construction industry ranked fourth in highest fatal injury rates among all industries. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting had a fatal injury rate of 22.8 per 100,000 FTE followed by transportation and warehousing at 13.8 and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction at 11.4.

Construction Worker Deaths by Fatal Injury Rates

Occupations in construction that saw an increase in fatal injury rates in 2015 include structural iron and steel workers going from 28.3 to 29.8, construction laborers going from 13.3 to 15.6 and electricians going from 10.0 to 10.7. Operating engineers and construction equipment operators increased from 8.0 to 11.3, pipelayers and plumbers jumped from 5.6 t0 8.0 and carpenters rose from 4.8 to 6.7.

Not all occupations in construction saw increases in their fatal injury rates in 2015. Fatal injury rates for roofers dropped from 46.1 to 39.7, first-line supervisors fell from 17.4 to 16.1 and painters declined from 9.2 to 7.6.

According to the 2015 CFOI report, foundation, structure and building exterior contractors had the largest increase in fatal injury totals in 2015 at 231 worker deaths, a 27% increase from the 182 in 2014.

There were several other construction occupations that recorded their highest number of worker deaths in several years. Construction laborers at 235 total worker deaths were the highest since 2008. Carpenters and electricians, both at 83 total worker deaths, was the most since 2009. Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters reported the most worker deaths since 2003 with 46 in 2015.

construction fatal injury rates

Construction Worker Deaths by Event or Exposure

Falls, slips and trips remain the primary cause of construction worker deaths. They led to 364 deaths in construction. Transportation incidents were next at 226 worker deaths followed by contact with objects or equipment at 156 fatal injuries and exposure to harmful substances or environments responsible for 136 worker deaths.

death by event or exposure

OSHA’s Fatal Four

In the construction industry, the four leading causes of worker deaths not involving highway collisions were falls, being struck by objects, electrocutions and getting caught in/between objects. OSHA has dubbed these the Fatal Four as they were responsible for 64.2% of all construction worker deaths in 2015.

Falls – 364 out of 937 total construction worker deaths in 2015 (38.8%)

Struck by Object – 90 (9.6%)

Electrocutions – 81 (8.6%)

Caught in/between – 67 (7.2%)

There was an increase in total construction worker deaths for each of the Fatal Four in 2015.

553,000 Worker’s Lives

The number of worker lives across all industries that labor group the AFL-CIO said in its latest annual report on worker safety “have been saved” since implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.