40. Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries in Construction by Employment, Establishment, and Geographic Trends
From 1992 to 2015, a total of 25,705 construction workers died from work-related injuries, an annual average of about 1,071 deaths. Among the fatally injured construction workers, 16.5% (4,230 workers) were self-employed1 (chart 40a). The number of fatal injuries in construction decreased during the economic downturn from 2007 through 2011, and then increased afterward, particularly among wage-and-salary (see Glossary) workers.
Small establishments, which form the largest segment of the construction industry (see page 2), suffer a disproportionate share of fatal work injuries. Between 1992 and 2015, 7,235 construction deaths (42% of deaths among wage-and-salary workers) occurred in establishments with 10 or fewer employees, even though less than 30% of construction workers were employed in such small establishments.2 In 2015 alone, 57% of construction deaths occurred in establishments with fewer than 20 employees, yet such establishments employed just 37.5% of the wage-and-salary workforce in construction (chart 40b).
Unlike fatal injuries, the rate of injuries3 resulting in days away from work (DAFW) among the smallest establishments (1-10 employees) was consistently lower than that for establishments with 11-249 employees prior to 2009 (chart 40c). However, this pattern has somewhat reversed since the latest recession. From 2009 to 2015, the injury rate in the smallest establishments exceeded the rate for establishments with 11-49 employees. Additionally, although the self-employed account for 24.5% of the construction workforce (see page 22), nonfatal injuries and illnesses3 among these workers remain unidentified because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect nonfatal injury data on self-employed workers.
The patterns of fatal and nonfatal injuries suggest that safety and health interventions should be enhanced among small construction establishments. The increasing nonfatal injuries among small construction establishments in recent years may be partially attributed to more accurate injury and illness reporting as well as growing vulnerable worker groups with the economic recovery, such as Hispanic construction workers (see page 16) who are more likely to be employed in small construction companies.4,5 By comparison, the injury rate for the largest establishments (1,000 or more employees) remained the lowest in construction, reaching 0.3 per 100 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs; see Glossary) in 2015. Advanced safety and health programs and favorable safety climates may contribute to the low injury rate among large establishments.4-8
Both fatal and nonfatal injury rates vary geographically. In the period of 2011-2015, the highest fatal injury rates were found in North Dakota (41.5 deaths per 100,000 FTEs), Washington, D.C. (32.1), Wyoming (19.6), South Dakota (19.3), and Arkansas (18.5; chart 40d). North Dakota has the fastest-growing economy and the least-safe working conditions of any state, which may explain the high fatality rate.9 For nonfatal injuries, the following five states reported the highest rates over the same period: Washington (257.7 per 10,000 FTEs), Montana (235.9), Massachusetts (216.0), Iowa (213.2), and Hawaii (211.4; chart 40e). In general, states with higher fatality rates had lower nonfatal injury rates, whereas states with lower fatality rates had higher nonfatal injury rates. Although fatal and nonfatal injury rates may not necessarily be correlated, the negative correlation suggests that nonfatal injuries could be underreported in some states.
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Full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) – It is used to convert the hours worked by part-time employees into the hours worked by full-time employees for risk comparison. FTEs is determined by the hours worked per employee on a full-time basis assuming a full-time worker working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, or 2,000 hours per year, https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshdef.htm.
1. Includes owners of unincorporated and incorporated businesses or members of partnerships, and paid or unpaid family workers.
2. The numbers of employees by establishment size were obtained from the County Business Patterns (CBP), an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The CBP provides information for establishments with payrolls only. Thus, deaths among the self-employed were excluded from this analysis. Deaths not reported by type of employment and establishment size were also excluded.
3. Illnesses comprise about 3% of all nonfatal injuries and illnesses in construction; therefore, numbers for construction largely represent injuries and will be referred to as such in this chart book.
4. Dong XS, Men Y, Ringen K. Work-related injuries among Hispanic construction workers-Evidence from the medical expenditure panel survey. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2010 Jun;53(6):561-9.
5. Dong XS, Fujimoto A, Ringen K, Stafford E, Platner JW, Gittleman JL, Wang X. 2011. Injury underreporting among small establishments in the construction industry. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 54:339-349.
6. Dong XS, Wang X, Goldenhar LM. 2016. Workplace safety and health perceptions of construction workers. CPWR Quarterly Data Report, Third Quarter, /publications/third-quarter-workplace-safety-and-health-perceptions-construction-workers (Accessed May 2017).
7. Dodge & Data Analytics. 2016. Building a safety culture: Improving safety and health management in the construction industry, /publications/building-safety-culture-improving-safety-health-management-construction-industry (Accessed May 2017).
8. Wang X, Dong, XS, Goldenhar LM. 2016. Safety management and safety culture among small construction firms. CPWR Quarterly Data Report, Second Quarter, /publications/second-quarter-safety-management-and-safety-culture-among-small-construction-firms (Accessed May 2017).
9. Mother Jones. 2014. North Dakota is the deadliest state to work in, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/north-dakota-nations-deadliest-state-work-fracking/ (Accessed October 2017).
Chart 40b – A total of 985 deaths occurred in construction in 2015, 800 of which were wage-and-salary workers. Deaths not reported by establishment size were excluded. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Chart 40c – Injury data by establishment size are available since 1994; no data are available for establishments with 1,000+ employees in 2003.
Chart 40a – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1992-2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/data/#injuries (Accessed April 2017).
Chart 40b – Fatality numbers were estimated from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This research was conducted with restricted access to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the BLS. Establishment data were from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns, https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2015/econ/cbp/2015-cbp.html (Accessed April 2017). Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Chart 40c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1994-2015 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, http://www.bls.gov/iif/home.htm (Accessed April 2017).
Chart 40d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2011-2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/data/#injuries (Accessed April 2017). FTEs were estimated from the 2011-2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Chart 40e – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2011-2015 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, http://www.bls.gov/data/#injuries (Accessed April 2017).