Construction Deaths Reach Highest Level in Nine Years
June 3, 2021
According to a recent report from The Center for Construction Training and Research (CPWR), construction deaths rose by more than 41% between 2011 and 2019. By 2019, the number of on-the-job fatalities were the highest they had been in nine years. The disturbing jump in deadly injuries is particularly striking among older workers and Hispanic workers. The report not only sheds light on how certain demographics are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of preventable workplace incidents, but it also examines which construction hazards create the deadliest risks for workers.
Fast Facts from the CPWR’s Report
In order to compile their report, researchers from the CPWR utilized data collected by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Researchers documented 1,102 fatal construction injuries in 2019, which represents a 41.1% increase from 2011. Here are some of the other key findings from the CPWR’s account:
- Fatal injuries among Hispanic workers increased by 89.8%, despite the fact that the Hispanic workforce only grew by 55% during that same period
- The fatality rate for workers 65-years-old and above was higher than any other age group, hovering at 22 per every 100,000 full-time employees
- Construction workers between 45 and 64-years-old sustained the highest number of fatalities from 2016 to 2019 than any other age group. Although workers over 65 have an overall higher deadly injury rate (22 per 100,000 versus 9.6 per 100,000 for workers who are 45 to 64), they account for a smaller proportion of the overall workforce than younger workers do
- Deaths from construction’s “Fatal Four”, which are struck-by incidents, caught-in/between accidents, falls, and electrocutions accounted for more than 64% of fatalities in 2019. Falls to a lower level grew by 25% from the year before and struck-by deaths increased by 7.6%
- From 2018 to 2019, struck-by fatalities involving transportation vehicles grew by slightly over 21%
- Every 7 out of 10 caught-in/between deaths resulted from workers being crushed in or by collapsing materials
- Similarly to the other categories, the rate of lethal falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs surged between 2011 and 2019
Despite being legally responsible for maintaining a safe and healthful workplace, the numbers from the CPWR’s report make it apparent that employers in the construction industry are not doing nearly enough to guard workers from avoidable, known hazards. When referring to the 5,333 individuals who lost their lives in workplace accidents in 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that most of the fatalities were preventable. Despite this fact, approximately 15 workers continue to die every day.
Construction Safety Recommendations
OSHA classifies unguarded machinery, rooftops, electrocutions, and being struck-by or caught-in/between heavy construction equipment as some of the most serious job-related hazards that workers in the construction industry face. The Fatal Four account for nearly two-thirds of all construction fatalities, so it is critical that employers implement safety programs that address the associated hazards and that comply with federal standards. By maintaining industry standard health and safety programs, employers across the nation can do their part to get every worker home safe and sound at the end of each workday.
OSHA offers comprehensive guidance for employers on ways they can improve workplace safety and reduce preventable injuries related to the Fatal Four, such as:
- Protect workers from known electrocution hazards. This includes ensuring that lockout/tagout procedures are in place to control hazardous energy sources and never leaving any exposed conductors or circuit parts unattended. Other ways to mitigate electrocution dangers is to double-insulate or ground electric tools, to locate and identify utilities in the area before beginning a job, and to make sure that employees keep a safe distance from overhead power lines at the jobsite (especially when they are using a scaffold, ladder, or other type of industrial work platform).
- Control caught-in/between hazards. All machinery must be properly guarded to prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts. Machinery also needs to be secured and adequately supported in order to prevent it from tipping over or moving unexpectedly. During trenching operations, make sure that the sides of a trench are sloped or benched and that workers install shoring structures to help prevent cave-ins.
- To mitigate struck by hazards, employers must protect workers from falling prey to struck by incidents involving transportation vehicles as well as from those that stem from contact with falling or flying objects. To prevent vehicle-related dangers, inspect all vehicles before every shift. Powered industrial vehicles should be equipped with back-up alerts for when they are driving in reverse. If there are forklift operators on site, ensure that each one is trained and certified (and be sure to inspect forklifts prior to every shift, too). Roadway work zones are notoriously dangerous as well, so make sure that highway workers have traffic signs, barricades, protective warning gear (like reflective, brightly colored vests), and impact attenuators (which act as crash cushions). When it comes to preventing injuries that result from falling or flying objects, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, safety glasses, goggles, and face shields. Workers should secure tools along with any other loose items to stop them from falling off a surface, and be sure to inspect tools before work for any potentially dangerous damages or issues
- Falls are another leading cause of preventable workplace fatalities. To reduce fall rates, guard every floor hole that workers can accidentally walk on and install guard rails and toe-boards around all open-sided runways, floors, and elevated work platforms. Depending on the nature of the job, employers may have to provide workers with fall protection like safety nets, safety harnesses and lines, handrails, and stair railings.
Injured in a Construction Accident?
The attorneys at Galfand Berger are experienced at representing construction accident victims. Construction workers who get hurt on the job often sustain major injuries that not only can result in exorbitant medical bills, but also in long-term complications and serious side effects. Here are just a few examples of recoveries that our attorneys have secured for injured workers:
- Our client, a certified crane operator, suffered a brain injury as a result of a forklift striking him in the back. Our attorneys were able to secure $4.7 million for our client.
- Our client, a framing subcontractor, fell 18 feet while installing lateral bracing on a house. The client sustained several severe and permanent injuries, such as burst fractures, paraplegia, open degloving wounds, a traumatic brain injury, and more. Our attorney secured the client an $8 million settlement.
If you would like to learn more about filing a construction accident claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, Galfand Berger LLP serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.