The construction industry has some of the riskiest jobs. Workers need to work on high altitudes, underground tunnels, toxic mines, natural disaster-prone areas, etc. which involves life-threatening injuries and deaths. Without the strong will of these workers, some of the greatest buildings such as Burj Khalifa couldn’t have been built. Even with proper safety gear and precautions, tragedies occur on construction sites. This article reflects on the stats related to injuries within the construction industry.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported that one in ten construction site workers are injured every year.
- Construction safety continues to evolve, and improvements in equipment and wearable technology have helped push the industry forward.
- Early research suggests that construction workers are five times more likely than the general public to contract COVID-19, adding to the list of risks that they take to provide an essential service in building new structures.
- The OSHA also reports that fall hazards are the leading cause of injury at construction sites.
- There are roughly 150,000 construction site accident injuries each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- The BLS also reported that while falls make up the majority of the construction site accidents, contact with equipment was also a significant cause of injury for workers.
- Workers between 25 and 34 years old are the most likely to be injured in a construction site accident.
- A full 15 percent of workers’ compensation costs are spent on workers who were injured while at a construction site.
- Most construction site injuries involve construction workers’ backs, spines, and trunks.
- The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) reported in 2005 that 1,224 construction workers died on the job over the course of one year, making the construction industry the most dangerous industry in the country.
- There were 1,102 fatal injuries in the construction industry in 2019 in private industry and government.
- These deaths represented 20.7 percent of total workplace fatalities in the United States (5,333).
- Contact with objects or equipment (e.g., excavators, loaders, and graders) was the leading cause of nonfatal construction injuries from 2013 to 2019, at 32.8%. In 2019, struck-by incidents resulted in 1 out of 5 nonfatal injuries.
- Other leading causes of nonfatal injuries over those seven years were slips, trips and falls (31.1%), and overexertion/bodily reactions (25.2%).
- Among construction subsectors, the highest injury rates from 2017 to 2019 were in framing (292.7 per 10,000 FTEs), poured concrete (155.1), and flooring (148.8).
- At a rate of 150.8 per 10,000 FTEs, the 20-24 age group ranked highest among workers who experienced a nonfatal injury that resulted in days away from work.
- From 2015 to 2019, average annual injury rates in Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming were at least 60% higher than construction overall.
- In roughly half a century, OSHA and our state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions, and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety.
- Worker deaths in America are down on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 15 a day in 2019.
- Worker injuries and illnesses are down-from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 in 2019.
- Each day, an average of 6,000 people die as a result of work-related accidents or diseases, totaling more than 2.2 million work-related deaths a year. Of these, about 350,000 deaths are from workplace accidents and more than 1.7 million are from work-related diseases. In addition, commuting accidents increase the burden with another 158,000 fatal accidents.
- Each year, workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents that lead to absences from work for 3 days or more and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related disease
- Approximately 4% of the world’s gross domestic product is lost with the cost of injury, death, and disease through absence from work, sickness treatment, disability, and survivor benefits.
- Hazardous substances kill about 438,000 workers annually, and 10% of all skin cancers are estimated to be attributable to workplace exposure to hazardous substances.
- Asbestos alone claims about 100,000 deaths every year and the figure is rising annually. Although global production of asbestos has fallen since the 1970s, increasing numbers of workers in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, and other industrialized countries are now dying from past exposure to asbestos dust
- Silicosis – a fatal lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust – still affects tens of millions of workers around the world. In Latin America, 37% of miners have some degree of the disease, rising to 50% among miners aged over 50.
Fatal Construction Industry Statistics
- One in five deaths among U.S. workers is in the construction industry. [OSHA]
- Of the 42 annual crane-related deaths, around 60 percent involve a falling object. [BLS]
- A total of 1,061 construction workers died on the job in 2019. [BLS]
- Each year, 9.7 of every 100,000 construction workers suffer a fatal injury, which is the fourth-highest rate of any industry. [BLS]
- Falls account for 33% of all construction deaths, and eliminating falls in construction would save more than 300 lives every year. [BLS]
- The “Fatal Four” leading causes of construction deaths (falls, struck by equipment, caught in between, and electrocutions) account for over 60 percent of all construction-related deaths. [OSHA]
Non-Fatal Construction Injuries
- Each year, 1.7 percent of construction workers suffer an injury serious enough that they miss work. [BLS]
- In 2019, construction workers ages 25-34 were most likely to sustain an injury on the job. [NSC]
- The construction industry accounts for 8.5% of all injuries that result in lost days of work. [BLS]
- More than 25 percent of construction workers indicate that they had failed to report a work-related injury. [CPWR]
- Injury rates in construction are 71% higher than injury rates across all industries on average. [NIH]
- In 2018, there were 195,600 cases of injuries in the construction sector. [BLS]
Cost of Construction Injuries
- Fatal construction injuries are estimated to cost the United States $5 billion each year in health care, lost income, reduced quality of life, and lost production. [Midwest EPI]
- Workers’ compensation claims for non-fatal falls account for $2.5 billion annually. [Liberty Mutual]
- The total annual cost of all construction injuries in the United States is more than $11.5 billion. [NIH]
- More than 130,000 construction workers missed days of work due to injuries in 2019, decreasing productivity. [BLS]
- The highest-recorded OSHA penalty in 2019 was levied against Purvis Home Improvement Co. Inc: $1,792,726 in fines for violations related to a fatal fall. [OSHA]
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties can cost from $13,653 to $136,532 for safety violations. [OSHA]
Safety Training Statistics
- OSHA estimates that construction companies save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested in safety programs. [OSHA]
- In 2019, the average cost of a medically consulted injury was $42,000, while the average cost per death was $1,220,000. [NSC]
- OSHA safety certifications take between 10 and 30 hours to complete and cost between $60 and $180 dollars. [OSHA]
- On average, construction companies spend 3.6 percent of their budgets on injuries, but only 2.6 percent on safety training. [National Funding / ELCOSH]
- 67 percent of construction workers feel that standards are higher for productivity than for safety. [EHS Today]
- Over 60 percent of construction accidents occur within an employee’s first year of work, highlighting the need for proactive, high-quality training. [BLS]
- 55 percent of workers believe they need more safety training, and 25 percent worry about being injured every day. [360 Training]
Construction Safety Measures
- Doubling down on safety requires investment in proper education for workers. For example, techniques like “3 points of contact” help reduce falls, which are the leading cause of death and injury among construction workers.
- Meanwhile, a proper understanding of equipment—like aerial lifts or cranes—is vital to avoid accidents involving falling objects or collisions.
- Finally, improvement in communication—whether with an overarching safety plan, or specialized communication like hand signals—has a measurable effect on safety.
- As with all other dangers faced by construction workers, the proper response involves increased awareness, training, regulation, and equipment.
Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in FY 2020
- Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Hazard Communication Standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Fall Protection–Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
The above stats show that there is a need for proper training and awareness programs for the construction site workers to prevent any mishaps. Teaching techniques such as ‘3 points of contact’ will help workers be aware of their safety at high altitudes. Establishments of mini-clinics and wards for the injured near the construction site will help treat patients quicker. Lastly, companies should value the life of their workers and take necessary measures even if it costs them some money.