42. Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries within Construction Occupations
Death and injury counts vary widely among construction occupations. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of work-related deaths among construction laborers – the largest construction trade – totaled 988,1 far exceeding that in any other construction occupation, and accounting for 22% of all construction fatalities during that time period (chart 42a). Foremen experienced 502 deaths during the same period, second only to construction laborers in the number of fatalities. Construction laborers also had the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses2 resulting in days away from work (DAFW) in 2015, at 16,960 cases. This was double the number of injuries among carpenters, the occupation with the second highest number of nonfatal injuries (7,790; chart 42b).
In terms of fatal injury rates, electrical power-line installers had the highest rate of fatal injuries at 67.1 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs; see Glossary), seven times the rate for all construction workers on average (chart 42c). Nevertheless, fatal injury rates have significantly declined for this high-risk occupation since 1992 (the year when BLS started to report such data), when electrical power-line installers experienced 149.3 deaths per 100,000 FTEs.3 Roofers ranked as the second most dangerous occupation for fatal injuries at 41.8 deaths per 100,000 FTEs. These two occupations also had a high risk of fall fatalities (see page 44).
For nonfatal injuries, construction helpers had the highest injury rates between 2011 and 2015, followed by sheet metal workers and power-line installers (chart 42d). The category “construction helpers” includes helpers in multiple occupations. Helpers assist construction craft workers, such as electricians, carpenters, and cement masons, with a variety of tasks.4 For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set the forms that determine the shape of poured concrete. Other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craft workers. In general, construction helpers are younger (about nine years younger than the average age of the construction workforce in 2015)5 and have less job-related training and experience than other construction occupations.4
The fatality data were from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, and the nonfatal injury data were from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (see page 38). The number of construction workers, expressed as FTEs, was obtained from the Current Population Survey (see page 10). Due to coding system modifications and other changes in these data sources, numbers reported on this page may not be directly comparable to those in previous publications.
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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. The tabulations are a sum of five years of data for more reliable estimates.
2. Illnesses comprise less than 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.
3. CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training. 2013. The Construction Chart Book: The U.S. Construction Industry and Its Workers. Fifth edition, page 42, https://www.cpwr.com/publications/construction-chart-book (Accessed May 2017).
4. United States Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook: What construction laborers and helpers do, https://www.bls.gov/OOH/construction-and-extraction/construction-laborers-and-helpers.htm#tab-2 (Accessed May 2017).
5. This number was estimated from the Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Charts 42b and 42d – Data cover private wage-and-salary workers only.
Charts 42a and 42c – Fatality numbers were estimated from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This research was conducted with restricted access to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the BLS. Numbers of FTEs were estimated from the Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Charts 42b and 42d – Numbers of nonfatal injuries were from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Numbers of FTEs were estimated from the Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.