- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report for 2019 on Dec. 15 and reported that the private construction industry had 1,061 fatal injuries for the year, up 5% from 2018 and the sector's highest number of worker deaths since 2007. The 2019 rate of injuries per 100,000 workers in the private construction industry was 9.7, up 2.1% from 9.5 in 2018. On-the-job fatalities for all industries totaled 5,333, representing a fatal injury rate of 3.5 per 100,000 workers.
- Within the public and private AEC industry in 2019, architects and engineering occupations had 43 fatal injuries, and construction tradeworkers had 809. Roofers had a fatal injury rate of 54 per 100,000 workers; construction trade helpers had a rate of 40; and structural iron and steel workers had a rate of 26.3.
- The leading cause of deaths for all industries was transportation-related, those injuries totaled 2,122. Falls, slips and trips killed 880 workers and 732 workers lost their lives after making contact with objects or equipment. Exposure to harmful substances or environments killed 642.
Causes of death and the number of workers killed in the private construction industry included:
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments, including electricity and extreme temperatures (167).
- Contact with objects and equipment, including struck-by and caught-in/between incidents (146).
- Roadway incidents involving a motorized land vehicle (142).
- Roadway collisions with an object other than a vehicle (34).
- Noncollision roadway incidents (25).
- Fires and explosions (7).
- Collisions between a rail vehicle and another vehicle (7).
- Water vehicle incidents (5).
The BLS did not provide the number of fall-related incidents for construction, historically the leading cause of jobsite accidental deaths.
Construction industry organizations and employers have a sharp focus on safety and follow these statistics closely, according to industry experts.
"This is a disappointing report and makes apparent that more work must be done in our industry to not only protect our employees from jobsite hazards but also improve the total human health of the construction workforce," said Greg Sizemore, vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development at Associated Builders and Contractors.
Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors, told Construction Dive that a 2019 association survey revealed concern among a significant number of its members that the influx of new and relatively inexperienced workers was impacting safety.
"That is one reason we joined the National Construction Safety Week effort in 2019 and continued to offer a range of construction safety programs," he said. "We redoubled those efforts in 2020, organizing nationwide construction safety stand downs in April for the coronavirus and in May for Safety Week."
Industry stakeholders, Turmail said, must constantly reinforce and enforce all safety measures and redouble their efforts to protect the health and safety of the construction workers.
"We have a lot of work to do but will not rest until we get to zero fatalities," he said.
The bottom line?
"One construction worker fatality is one too many," Sizemore said.