BLS: Injury rate for construction industry edges down in 2015 — but outpaces US average

Dive Brief:

  • Non-fatal, private-sector construction injuries in 2015 were at a rate of 3.5 per 100 workers, a 0.1% drop from 3.6 workers in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Despite the slight dip in the rate, the number of recorded injuries and illnesses increased 1.9% from 2014 to 204,700 due to the increase in the construction workforce.
  • The rate of injuries and illnesses in the construction industry outpaced that of the nation in general, which saw 3 injury or illness cases per 100 workers — the lowest rate since 2002, according to the BLS. The total number of incidents across industries was down 48,000 from 2014 to 2.9 million.

Dive Insight:

Attention on workplace safety concerns has been ramping up, as federal and state agencies are cracking down on employers who put workers in danger. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous businesses in the U.S., as construction fatalities accounted for 20.6% of all total private industry fatalities in 2014, according to the BLS. The construction industry also saw 233 Latino worker deaths in 2014  the most of any industry  as well as the highest number of immigrant worker deaths, at 217, according to the AFL-CIO.

Earlier this year, OSHA implemented a 78% fine increase for safety violations, in compliance with a federally mandated rate increase to bring its penalty amounts in line with the Consumer Price Index — representing the first increase since 1990. The agency raised its maximum penalty for serious violations from $7,000 to $12,471 and increased the fine for willful and repeated violations from $70,000 to $124,709.

Safety advocates welcomed the new measure, as they have criticized the lower penalties for years and said they hoped the increased fines would help deter employers from violating safety procedures. On the other hand, some industry representatives have expressed concern with the fine increases, which they said could be a burden on small businesses. 

Another way OSHA is cracking down on businesses that continue to defy safety regulations is through its Severe Violators program, to which the agency added 520 companies between 2010 and mid-April 2016. Of those companies, OSHA said 60% were construction industry businesses.

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