Fatalities in the Construction Industry: A Silent Epidemic

Construction Accident Deaths in California

Many people do not realize how many fatalities and injuries occur every day in the construction industry. In fact, the construction industry has been suffering a silent epidemic of injuries and deaths, particularly among minority groups who tend to be offered the more dangerous jobs. Various studies have documented the growth of danger in this industry and some groups are advocating for sterner measures to be taken to prevent these accidents.

Contact a construction injury lawyer immediately if you or someone you love has been a victim of a construction industry accident. It is important for you to learn about your rights in this situation and how you may be able to recover much more than you think in damages.

The Facts About Construction Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following numbers were recorded for construction industry accidents for the years 2009 to 2012:

  • 2009—802 fatalities, 4.3 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers
  • 2010—781 fatalities, 4.0 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers
  • 2011—849 fatalities, 3.9 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers
  • 2012—879 fatalities, 3.7 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers

This means that, over these four years, there were an average of 2.27 fatalities per day and 3.97 percent of all construction workers were injured or made ill by their jobs.

Construction accounts for one of the largest single groups of worker fatalities. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 19.3 percent of all worker fatalities in 2012 were in the construction sector.

Construction deaths often fall into one of four categories, known as the “Fatal Four”:

  • Falls. 34.6 percent of all construction workers, or 279, killed in 2012 died as the result of falls. Most of these falls occurred from heights such as tall buildings, although some falls occurred on stairs or short ladders and some were the result of debris and other obstacles.
  • Struck by Object. Around 9.8 percent of construction workers, or a total of 79, were killed in 2012 when they were struck by an object. In most cases, these objects were heavy pieces that fell from some height to land on the worker, although this category also includes objects that are thrown or catapulted on a worksite by defective machinery or other means.
  • Electrocutions. Electrocution accounted for 66 construction worker deaths in 2012, or about 8.1 percent of the total.
  • Caught-in/between. Around 1.6 percent or 13 deaths in 2012 were the result of being caught in or between various objects or machinery.

The Most Common Worksite Hazards

OSHA also publishes a list of the construction worksite hazards for which the agency most frequently issues citations, including:

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  5. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  6. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  7. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  8. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  9. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  10. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

It seems clear that just a few minor adjustments at construction sites might make a difference in how many lives are lost each year.

Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Liability In Construction Accidents

Many victims do not understand the difference between their rights as an employee under workers’ compensation and their right to collect damages as part of a personal injury lawsuit.

While this topic is complex and complicated, it can be summed up in a general way by saying that a worker may have the right to a personal injury claim if there was a third party involved besides the employer who created or maintained a hazardous situation that led to the worker’s injuries.

A construction injury attorney may be able to help you decide if you have the basis for a personal injury lawsuit if you have been injured or lost a family member in a construction accident.