Specialty Trade Contractors Lead Rise in Construction Fatalities

Fatalities in the private construction industry rose 4 percent in 2015 to 937 from 899 in 2014, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 2015 total for construction was the highest since 2008 and was primarily led by an increase in fatal injuries among specialty trade contractors, though the rate for construction remained statistically unchanged. The largest increase among specialty trade contractors involved building exterior, foundation and structure contractors, whose fatal injury total rose 27 percent to 231 fatal injuries in 2015 from 182 in 2014.

Several construction occupations recorded their highest fatality total in years, including construction laborers (highest since 2008); carpenters (2009); electricians (2009); and plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters (2003). In contrast, fatal injuries among extraction workers were down sharply to 45 in 2015 from 88 in 2014. Transportation and material moving occupations recorded fewer fatal injuries in 2015 than in 2014 but still accounted for more than a quarter of all fatal work injuries in 2015.

Falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls. Of those cases where the height of the fall was known, more than two-fifths of fatal falls occurred from 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015. Workers were fatally struck by an object or equipment 519 times in 2015.

Fatal injuries in the private manufacturing industry rose slightly in 2015 to 353 from 349 in 2014. Though the increase in manufacturing was small, the 2015 fatal injury total for manufacturing was the highest for that industry sector since 2008. The rate remained statistically unchanged from 2014.

Overall, a total of 4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2015, a slight increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014. The annual total of 4,836 fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was the highest since 5,214 fatal injuries in 2008. The overall rate of fatal work injury for workers in 2015, at 3.38 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, was lower than the 2014 rate of 3.43.

The number of fatal work injuries involving transportation incidents, the incident leading to the most fatal work injuries, increased in 2015. Roadway incidents were up 9 percent in 2015 to 1,264 and accounted for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries. Almost half of these fatalities (629) involved a semi, tractor-trailer or tanker truck.

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