43. Leading Causes of Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries in Construction
In 2015, injuries caused by falls, slips, and trips were responsible for over one-third (367 of 985) of all fatal work injuries in construction (chart 43a). Transportation incidents (263 deaths) and contact with objects (166 deaths) were the second and third leading causes of construction fatalities, respectively.1
Leading causes of nonfatal injuries differ from fatal injuries. For example, contact with objects caused one-third (26,550 of 79,890) of all nonfatal injuries resulting in days away from work (DAFW; chart 43b) in 2015, making it the number one cause of nonfatal injuries, even though this category ranked third among fatal injuries with 17% of fatalities. Similarly, falls to a lower level were a major contributor to fatalities in construction, accounting for 96% (353 of 367) of all fatal falls, while slips, trips, and falls on the same level caused more than half (12,710; 53%) of all nonfatal fall injuries in construction. Overexertion / bodily reactions do not normally lead to death, but are often known as a major cause of musculoskeletal disorders (see page 48), responsible for more than one-quarter of DAFW cases in construction in 2015.
Using more detailed injury categories, from 1992 through 2015, the highest-ranking causes of fatalities in construction were falls to a lower level (8,211 deaths), being struck by an object or a vehicle (4,648 deaths), contact with electric current (2,807 deaths), and caught-in/between (2,207 deaths; chart 43c). These four causes are recognized as the “Construction Focus Four” by OSHA, claiming 745 lives on average per year in construction, and accounting for 70% of all construction fatalities during this time period.
Each of these causes of death hit their lowest point between 2010 and 2012 during the latest recession and increased since then, though at different rates. Fatalities due to falls increased by more than a third (36%) from 2011 to 2015 with the recovery of the U.S. housing market, more rapidly than the other three leading causes.2
Being struck by an object has remained the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in construction since 1992 (chart 43d). Yet, the rate of such injuries has generally fallen along with the overall injury trend in construction, dropping from 94.2 injuries per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs; see Glossary) in 1992, to an all-time low rate of 23.8 injuries per 10,000 FTEs in 2010. The rate then rose slightly, with 27.4 injuries per 10,000 FTEs in 2015. Despite an overall decline, falls to a lower level shifted from the third to the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries in 1996, and has remained higher than overexertion since then. Fall prevention continues to be a challenge for the construction industry.
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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. Information on the data sources used for the tabulations is reported on page 38.
2. In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics switched to Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) version 2.01. Therefore, the numbers of fatal and nonfatal falls are not directly comparable before and after 2011.
Chart 43a –“Falls, slips, and trips (same level)” also includes jump to a lower level and fall, slip, trip, unspecified. “Transportation” refers to injuries involving vehicles that are due to collision or other type of traffic accident, loss of control, or a sudden stop, start, or jolting of a vehicle regardless of the location where the event occurred. “Contact with objects” includes being struck by an object, struck against an object, caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and caught in or crushed by collapsing materials. “Exposure” includes exposure to electric current; temperature extremes; air pressure changes; caustic, noxious, or allergenic substances; and harmful substances and environments. “Other” includes fires and explosions; assaults and violent acts, including self-inflicted injuries, assaults, and assaults by animals; bodily reactions/exertion, such as when startled; and other non-classifiable events or exposures.
Chart 43b –“Falls, slips, trips (same level)” also includes 610 (<1%) nonfatal injuries that are classified as “jump to lower level” and “fall, slip, trip, unspecified”. “Other” includes fires and explosions; assaults and violent acts; and other non-classifiable events or exposures. Lost-workday cases include only cases involving days away from work and excludes those with restricted work activity. Illnesses account for less than 3% of the total.
Chart 43c – Struck-by fatalities include deaths due to being struck by a vehicle, object, or equipment. Caught-in/between fatalities include deaths due to being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, as well as those due to being caught in or crushed by collapsing materials.
Chart 43a – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm (Accessed April 2017).
Chart 43b – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, http://www.bls.gov/data/#injuries (Accessed April 2017).
Chart 43c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1992-2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm (Accessed April 2017).
Chart 43d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1992-2015 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, Table R75, https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/ostb4827.pdf (Accessed April 2017).