National Construction Worker Injury Statistics

Construction is a dangerous industry. With all of the inherent risks associated with the use of heavy machinery, working high in the air, and the constant motion of workers and objects, it is not surprising that 18.5% of total fatal workplace injuries occur in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

This article provides a snapshot of some of the injury numbers associated with the construction industry.

Not surprisingly, the number of annual construction worker deaths in the United States rises and falls with the total number of workers:

Year

Total Construction Workers

Fatalities

2007

11.8 million

1,239

2008

10.9 million

1,016

2009

9.7 million

879

2010

9.1 million

780

Source: 2011 Center for Construction Research and Training (CCRT) Report

A construction worker has a 75% chance of missing work time due to a work related injury during a 45 year career, according to a 2011 CCRT Report. The same worker has a 1 in 200 chance of dyingfrom a work related injury during a 45 year career, according to the same report.

Working for a small construction company increases the odds of injury. The percentage of construction workers employed at firms with fewer than 20 employees is 39%, but the percentage of construction worker deaths that occur at firms with fewer than 20 employees is 55%, according to a 2007 CCRT Report.

Respiratory diseases are a surprisingly common illness for construction workers. 702 construction workers died in the United States from asbestosis between 1990 and 1999, and 15% of construction workers can expect to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the 2011 CCRT Report.

OSHA tracks statistics of the specific types and causes of injuries in the construction industry. The most common fatal injuries are falls, electrocutions, “struck by object,” and “caught in/between.”
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Injuries are often associated with a violation of a safety standard. Below is the list of the ten most commonly violated OSHA standards:

sub-standard scaffolding
inadequate fall protection
ineffective hazard communication (warnings)
inadequate respiratory protection
sub-standard control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment
powered industrial trucks (improper use)
ladders (improper use)
problems with electrical systems design, and
problems with machines.

Injury rates among construction workers also vary significantly based on the worker’s field of specialty. According to the 2007 CCRT Report, categories of construction workers with the highest death rates are:

ironworker
power installer
roofer
truck driver, and
laborer.

According to the same report, the categories of construction workers with the highest nonfatal injury rates are:

helper
sheet metal
ironworker
insulation
laborer.

Construction worker injury statistics also vary by state. According to the 2007 CCRT Report, the states with the highest death rates among construction workers are:

Montana
Wyoming
Hawaii
Washington
Rhode Island, and
Wisconsin.

The 2007 CCRT Report also demonstrated that construction worker injuries can cause significant financial strain on the construction industry. The approximate total annual cost of worker injuries is $13 billion. The average OSHA fine for violating a safety standard is $1,100.

Workers’ compensation costs alone eat up 5% of construction firm costs. But only 46% of total construction worker medical costs attributable to job related injuries are paid for by workers’ compensation.

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