Death and injury on construction sites across the country occur with alarming frequency, but the rate seems to be on the decline. In part, this can probably be attributed to safer working conditions, better training and, simply, a more careful attention to safety issues. While safety is a very personal issue that affects workers and construction companies, there is a lot we can learn from stepping back from our individual jobs and taking the 30,000- foot view of the scope of the problems. The numbers tell the story.
In the fiscal year 2011, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] most frequently cited the following 10 violations of standards across all industries. The construction industry garnered the top two citations and three of the top 10. No other single industry was cited.
• Fall protection-construction
• Hazard communication standard-general industry
• Respiratory protection-general industry
• Control of hazardous energy-general industry
• Electrical, wiring methods-general industry
• Powered industrial trucks-general industry
• Ladders-construction • Electrical systems design-general industry
• Machine guarding-general industry
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4,206 workers died in 2010 and 774 of those deaths occurred in construction. That represents 18.7 percent of the total deaths coming from the construction industry.
Of the total construction fatalities, 56 percent occurred in what the BLS calls the “Fatal Four” categories:
• 264 deaths due to falls (34 percent)
• 76 deaths due to electrocution (10 percent)
• 64 deaths due to being struck by an object (8 percent)
• 33 deaths described as “caught in/between” (4 percent), which includes trenching accidents and getting tangled in machinery.
In 2010, 9.8 fatalities occurred for every 100,000 full-time workers. This rate compares poorly to manufacturing (2.3 fatalities per 100,000) but very favorably to agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (27.9 fatalities per 100,000).
The fatalities in construction during 2010 can be further broken down by type of construction.
• 159 fatalities occurred during construction of buildings
• 61 occurred in nonresidential construction
• 91 occurred in residential construction
• 447 fatalities occurred among trade contractors
• 146 among poured concrete foundation and structure contractors
•15 fatalities occurred in structural steel and precast concrete contractors
• 69 among roofing contractors
In construction of buildings in 2010, the most common event causing a fatality was a fall, with 80 of the 159 fatalities or 50.3 percent.
Among trade contractors during 2010, falls were also the most common reason for fatalities. Of the 447 fatalities, falls accounted for 164, which is 36.7 percent.
The rate of fatalities among 10,000 roofers in 2010. This places roofers in the sixth most dangerous occupation. The top 10 most dangerous occupations follows, with rates of fatalities per 100,000 workers in parentheses:
• Fishers and related fishing workers (152.0)
• Logging workers (93.5)
• Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (70.6)
• Farmers and ranchers (42.5)
• Mining machine operators (37.0)
• Roofers (32.4)
• Refuse and recyclable material collectors (29.8)
• Driver/sales workers and truck drivers (23.0)
• Industrial machinery installation, repair and maintenance workers (20.7)
• Police and sheriff’s patrol officers (18.1)
Injuries and Illnesses
In 2010, the BLS reports there were 195,900 reported cases of injuring and illness in construction.
• 38,700 occurred in construction of buildings
• 29,000 occurred in heavy and civil engineering construction
• 128,200 among trade contractors
The indidence of injuries per 10,000 workers in construction during 2010. This compares to the following incidence rates:
• 3.4 rate in construction of buildings
• 3.7 rate in heavy and civil engineering construction
• 4.1 in trade contractors
The decline in the rate of reported injuries and illiness in the private construction industry from 2009 to 2010. According to BLS, the rate of injury and illness in 2010 had fallen to 4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers.
The Cost of Falls
According to OSHA, falls from elevations by roofers cost approximately $106,000 each. For carpenters the total cost is
$97,000 for each fall.
A fall from a ladder or scaffolding by a roofer costs approximately $68,000. For carpenters, this costs $62,000.
The average workers’ compensation claim for a fall from elevation during the years of 2005 through 2007, according to OSHA:
• $106,648 was the average workers’ compensation cost for a roofer for a fall during the same period • $97,169 was the average workers’ compensation cost for a carpenter for a fall during the same period
Among insured employers the average annual cost for roofers who fell from ladders or scaffolding was $19 million for the years 2005 through 2007.
Among insured employers the average annual cost for carpenters who fell from ladders or scaffolding was $64 million for the years 2005 through 2007.