The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2016, and the numbers for the construction industry are disappointing again this year. Fatal injuries in the industry increased 6 percent from 2015 to 2016 (the last year for which data is available.) Following a trend that has persisted for the past six years, the industry represented nearly 20 percent of all workplace deaths and about 22 percent of all private industry worker deaths. In all, 991 construction workers died in a fatal on-the-job accident in 2016.
Of interest is the distribution of construction occupations accounting for the increased number of deaths. Structural iron and steel workers saw a drop in fatal injuries from 29.8 to 25.1 percent. Similarly, the rate of fatalities for construction laborers dropped slightly from 15.6 to 15.1, while the rate of fatal injuries for electricians went down from 10.7 to 10 percent. Additionally, pipe-layers and plumbers saw a dramatic decrease in the job-related fatality rate, from 8.0 to 4.1 percent.
The construction occupation which saw the largest increase in the rate of fatal injuries was roofers, in whom the rate rose from 39.7 to 48.6 percent. First line supervisors also showed a significant increase of nearly 2 percent. And the rate of fatalities among carpenters and painters both rose about 1 percent, from 6.7 to 7.6 percent and 7.6 to 8.6 percent respectively.
As in previous years, contracted workers accounted for nearly half on all fatal construction industry injuries
No Progress on OSHA’s Fatal Four
For over a decade, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has urged the construction industry to focus on improving safety related to the top four causes of construction worker fatalities: falls; struck by object; electrocutions; and caught in/ between. Yet the “Fatal Four” remain the top causes of occupational fatalities in the industry (excluding transportation-related incidents) accounting for over 67 percent of all deaths in 2016.
Falls — Falls were still the leading cause of construction industry deaths by far in 2016, accounting for 384 fatalities. Appropriate fall arrest protection, including harnesses, safety nets and guardrails, could save up to 400 lives every year, according to OSHA estimates.
Struck by object and caught in/between — These categories of injury are very similar, and can be mitigated with appropriate safety training for all employees. They include any incident in which a worker is hit by an object or pinned between a moving object and a stationary object, such as a piece of machinery and a wall. Also included are injuries caused by a trench or excavation collapse.
Electrocution — About 140 construction workers were killed by electricity in 2016, most often due to contact with overhead power lines. The second leading cause of electrocution was contact with transformers and live wires, followed by contact with electrical current when working with machinery or appliances. Training employees to avoid these hazards and eliminating them whenever possible ( (for instance, by disabling electrical circuits and installing lock-out/tag-out procedures) can mitigate injuries of this kind.
About the Carmoon Group
At the Carmoon Group, we have been insuring construction professionals for over 20 years. Our knowledge of the construction industry is unsurpassed, and we are experts at helping contractors like you manage and mitigate all kinds of risk. Call us today to set up an appointment for your annual insurance review or to discuss new coverage. Or if it’s more convenient, just reach out online and we’ll get back to you right away.