Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the percentage increase as 5% rather than 4%.
- Fatalities in the private construction industry rose 4% between 2014 and 2015, from 899 to 927, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
- The preliminary figures found the number of construction workplace fatalities in 2015 was the highest since 2008.
- Several occupations within the construction industry saw their highest fatality numbers in recent years, including plumbers, pipe fitters and steamfitters (which had the most fatalities since 2003), laborers (2008), electricians (2009) and carpenters (2009).
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S., and attention to workplace safety concerns has been ramping up as federal and state agencies crack down on employers who put workers in danger.
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 — 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.
OSHA is also 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.