That was Charles Jeffress's message at the 10th Annual Construction Safety Conference held last month in Chicago. "The construction industry has made real progress when it comes to overall injury and illness rates. (Rates) have declined by nearly 30 percent since 1993," said Jeffress. "That's good news... Now I'd like to see us make a real dent in the fatality rates. The news on fatalities has not been good. In fact, it's terrible."

More construction workers die on the job than workers in any other field, reported Jeffress. Only six percent of Americans work in construction, but nearly 20 percent of American workers who lost their lives in the workplace last year died on construction sites.

More than 1,200 construction workers were killed in 1998. While occupational deaths have been declining in most other industries, deaths on construction sites have been increasing — by 25 percent over the past seven years.

Jeffress said smaller employers tend to have significantly higher rates. "We need larger employers to help focus on small subcontractors and insist that they, too, pay special attention to safety," he said.