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Construction deaths rapidly outpace other workplace deaths

This article looks at why construction fatalities are rising so much faster than overall workplace deaths.

As Fortune recently reported, the U.S. workplace has gotten considerably safer over recent decades. Workplace deaths reached 14,000 per year 40 years ago, while today they are around 5,000. However, not all industries are enjoying the same level of improvements in safety. Most notably, construction fatalities, which already make up the largest share of U.S. worker deaths, have risen dramatically in recent years, largely thanks to a rebound in construction activity since the 2008 recession.

Construction work getting more dangerous

Overall workplace safety has generally been good in recent years. Although workplace deaths were up slightly in 2015, non-fatal injuries were down for the 13th straight year, with 48,000 fewer injuries on the job when compared to 2014.

However, it is a much different story when looking exclusively at construction accidents. Between 2011 and 2015, for example, while overall workplace fatalities increased by just three percent, they soared by 27 percent for construction workers. In 2015 there were 937 construction-related fatalities, the highest year since 2008. Thanks to an ongoing construction boom, New York City has been especially impacted by the rise in construction fatalities.

The main risks for construction workers

As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out, 21.4 percent of workplace fatalities are in construction, more than for any other industry. For construction workers, the most common causes of on-the-job deaths are falls, accounting for nearly 39 percent of all construction deaths, followed by being struck by an object (9.6 percent), electrocution (8.6 percent), and being caught in/between an object, machinery, or structure (7.2 percent). These four causes are referred to by OSHA as the “Fatal Four” because together they are responsible for over 64 percent of construction deaths.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when it came to OSHA citations, those for fall protection violations in the construction industry ranked as the most commonly given out citation for fiscal year 2016. Relatedly, scaffolding violations were the third most common citation, while ladder safety violations were also in the top ten at number seven. Those citations suggest that one of the reasons construction deaths are rising so quickly is because on many worksites safety protocols, especially against falls, are not being adhered to.

Workers’ compensation attorney

A workplace accident can be a frightening thing to go through, especially given the uncertainty surrounding how an injured worker will be able to pay for his or her bills and when and if they will be able to return to work. Workers’ compensation is supposed to be there to help alleviate some of that worry, but making a claim is not always easy. A workers’ compensation attorney can help those who have been injured in a workplace accident, including by helping them pursue the full amount of compensation that they may be entitled to.