Today's News / Safety in the Construction Industry / Environmental and Occupational Health

Construction deaths down for fifth straight year

One in four fall-related deaths involve a height of 10’ or less

September 24, 2012
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ambulanceAlthough falls continue to be a concern, just-released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures on 2011 U.S. fatal occupational injuries show that fatal work injuries in the construction industry declined to 721 in 2011 from 774 in 2010 -- a decrease of 7 percent. This was the fifth consecutive year of lower fatality counts. Fatal construction injuries are down nearly 42 percent since 2006.

Those numbers are part of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program conducted annually by the BLS, which also shows that 4,609 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2011, down from 4,690 in 2010. The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 for 2010.

Key preliminary findings of the survey:

  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for 780 fatalities, or about 17 percent of the fatal injuries in the workplace in 2011. Included in this count are 458 homicides and 242 suicides.
  • Work-related fatalities in the private mining industry (which includes oil and gas extraction) were down 10 percent in 2011 after an increase of 74 percent in 2010. Coal mining fatalities fell to 17 in 2011 from 43 in 2010.
  • Fatal work injuries in private truck transportation rose 14 percent in 2011 - the second consecutive year that counts have risen in this sector after reaching a series low in 2009.
  • Fatal work injuries increased among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers and among Hispanic or Latino workers in 2011, but declined among non-Hispanic white workers (down 3 percent).
  • Fatal work injuries involving workers 55 years of age and older as well as workers under the age of 18 were both lower in 2011, but fatal work injuries among workers in the 20 to 24 age group were up nearly 18 percent.

Profile of fatal work injuries in 2011 by worker characteristics

The number of fatal work injuries involving non-Hispanic white workers declined 3 percent in 2011, but were higher for black or African-American workers. For black workers, this increase follows three years of declining numbers of fatal injuries.

Fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers rose to 729 in 2011 from 707 in 2010, an increase of 3 percent.

The higher count in 2011 was the first increase in fatal injuries for Hispanic or Latino workers since 2006. Of the 729 fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers, 500 (or 69 percent) involved foreign-born workers.

Overall, there were 823 fatal work injuries involving foreign-born workers in 2011, of which the greatest share (338 or 41 percent) were born in Mexico.

Fatal work injuries were higher for workers 20 to 24 years of age, rising to 288 in 2011 from 245 in 2010, an increase of 18 percent. For workers 55 years of age or older and workers under the age of 18, fatal work injuries were down. Fatal work injuries involving women increased slightly in 2011 to 375, but declined by 2 percent for men to 4,234 in 2011 from 4,322 in 2010.

Fatal injuries to both wage and salary workers and self-employed workers declined slightly in 2011.

Profile of 2011 fatal work injuries by type of incident

Transportation incidents accounted for more than 2 out of every 5 fatal work injuries in 2011. Of the 1,898 transportation-related incidents, about 57 percent (1,075 cases) were roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles. Non-roadway incidents, such as a tractor overturn in a farm field, accounted for another 11 percent of the transportation-related fatal injuries. About 16 percent of fatal transportation incidents in 2011 involved pedestrians who were struck by vehicles. Of the 312 fatal work injuries involving pedestrians struck by vehicles, 61 occurred in work zones. Workers who were fatally injured in aircraft incidents in 2011 accounted for 146 fatalities or about 8 percent of the transportation total.

Overall, 780 workers were killed as a result of violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including 458 homicides and 242 suicides. Shootings were the most frequent manner of death in both homicides (78 percent) and suicides (45 percent). Another 37 deaths were due to animal- or insect-related incidents. Of the 375 fatal work injuries involving female workers overall, 21 percent involved homicides. In nearly 2 out of every 5 homicides to female workers, the assailants were relatives, with almost all of the relatives being spouses or domestic partners (current and former). Robbers were the assailants in another 22 percent of these fatalities. For male workers, homicides accounted for approximately 9 percent of all fatal injuries.

In contrast to female workers, relatives accounted for only about 2 percent of assailants. Robbers were the assailants in over one third of the homicide cases involving male workers.

Fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 666 workers in 2011, or about 14 percent of all fatal work injuries. Falls to lower level accounted for 541 of those fatalities. In 2011, the height of the fall was reported in 451 of the 541 fatal falls from higher level. Of those 451 cases, about one in four (115) occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less. Another fourth (118) occurred from a fall of over 30 feet.

A total of 472 workers were fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment, including 219 workers who were struck by falling objects or equipment and 192 who were struck by powered vehicles or mobile equipment not in normal operation.

Profile of fatal work injuries in 2011 by industry sector

The number of fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 7 percent in 2011. Fatal work injuries in construction have declined every year since 2006 and are down nearly 42 percent over that time. Economic conditions may explain much of this decline. Despite the lower fatal injury total, construction accounted for the second most fatal work injuries of any industry sector in 2011 with transportation and warehousing having the most fatal work injuries.

Private sector mining fatalities were down 10 percent to 154 in 2011 from 172 in 2010 after rising 74 percent in 2010. Fatal work injuries were down sharply in coal mining to 17 in 2011 from 43 in 2010; the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in 2010 which killed 29 workers was a major factor in the high fatality counts in 2010. Fatal work injuries in support activities for mining were up 6 percent.

Fatalities in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting were down by 10 percent to 557 in 2011 from 621 in 2010, led by a sharp drop in crop production fatalities. Manufacturing fatalities were also slightly lower.

Among service-providing industries in the private sector, fatal work injuries in transportation and warehousing accounted for 733 fatal work injuries in 2011, an increase of 11 percent over the final 2010 count (661 fatalities) and the highest count since 2008. The number of fatal injuries in truck transportation, the largest subsector within transportation and warehousing in terms of employment, increased by 14 percent in 2011, led by a 16 percent increase in general freight trucking and a 12 percent increase in specialized freight trucking.

Among other transportation subsectors, fatal work injuries in air transportation were lower, but fatalities in water and rail transportation were higher in 2011.

Fatal work injuries in the professional and business services sector were up 16 percent, led by an increase in fatalities in landscape services to 167 in 2011 from 133 in 2010.

Fatal occupational injuries among government workers increased by 2 percent from 2010 to 495. Local government increased to 294 in 2011 from 269 in 2010 due to a 24 percent increase in police protection. Fatal work injuries were lower among both state and federal workers.

Profile of fatal work injuries in 2011 by occupation

Fatal work injuries in construction and extraction occupations declined slightly in 2011 to 770--the lowest level since the occupational series began in 2003. Fatal injuries among construction trades workers also recorded a series low in 2011, falling 7 percent to 511 in 2011 and have declined 48 percent from the high reported in 2006. Fatal work injuries involving construction laborers, the worker subgroup accounting for the highest number of fatalities in the construction trades worker group, were down 6 percent in 2011 to 190 fatal work injuries. The number of fatal work injuries involving extraction workers was about the same as in 2010.

Fatal work injuries in the building and grounds cleaning, and maintenance occupational group were up 14 percent to 265 fatalities in 2011--the highest level since 2006. The biggest increases within this occupational group were among landscaping and groundskeeping workers and among tree trimmers and pruners.

Fatal work injuries involving farming, fishing, and forestry workers declined by 5 percent in 2011 after increasing in 2010. Fatalities involving agricultural workers, including farm workers and laborers, declined to 138 in 2011 from 161 in 2010. Fatalities among logging workers were higher in 2011, to 64 in 2011 from 60 in 2010, but fatal work injuries among fishers and related fishing workers were about the same as in 2010.

The number of fatal work injuries among protective service occupations increased for the second straight year, rising to 278 in 2011 from 261 in 2010. The increase in 2011 was led by higher numbers of fatal injuries among security guards and first-line supervisors of police and detectives.

Fatal work injuries involving workers in transportation and material moving occupations increased by 5 percent in 2011 to 1,213 fatalities, which is the highest level since 2008. Fatal work injuries in this occupational group accounted for about one quarter of all occupational fatalities. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers, the subgroup with the highest number of fatal work injuries within the transportation and material moving group, led the increase. Fatalities in this subgroup rose to 759 in 2011 from 718 in 2010, an increase of 6 percent.

Table 1. Fatal occupational injuries by event or exposure, 2011

Table 2. Fatal occupational injuries by industry and selected event or exposure, 2011

Table 3. Fatal occupational injuries by occupation and selected event or exposure, 2011

Table 4. Fatal occupational injuries by selected worker characteristics and selected event or exposure, 2011

Table 5. Fatal occupational injuries by state and event or exposure, 2010-2011

Table 6. CFOI participating agencies and telephone numbers

Technical notes

HTML version of the entire news release

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