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Construction Safety Statistics
Although construction processes and equipment continue to evolve to make construction work safer, the industry remains one of the most dangerous in the United States. Construction accounts for only 6% of the country’s workforce but 20% of workplace fatalities. Construction safety statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and other organizations paint a rather grim picture.
Fatalities and Injuries in the U.S. Construction Industry
According to BLS statistics, in 2020, 1,008 workers died in construction accidents—the third highest fatality rate of any industry. Of those deaths, 42 were related to crane operation and more than 300 to falls. Falls alone account for 34% of all deaths on construction job sites. According to OSHA, the top four causes of deaths in construction are falls, being struck by equipment, being caught in or in between objects, and electrocution. Together these four causes account for over 60% of all construction related deaths in the United States.
BLS reported 1,741,000 non-fatal construction injuries in 2020, but that number would be significantly higher if all construction-related injuries were reported. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, more than a quarter of all U.S. construction workers have not reported injuries they have suffered on the job. In fact, every year 1.1% of all construction workers are injured seriously enough to miss work, accounting for 6% of all injuries resulting in missed work days in all industries. BLS found the rate of injury and illness in construction in 2020 to be 24% higher than they were across all industries.
The Cost of Injuries in the U.S. Construction Industry
The costs resulting from workplace fatalities in U.S. construction add up to about $5 billion per year. That includes the lost income and reduced quality of life for families that have lost a breadwinner, as well as the medical costs and lost production experienced by employers. When non-fatal injuries are added in, the total cost of construction injuries soars to more than $170 billion annually according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
In 2019, NSC found that the average cost of construction injuries requiring medical treatment was $42,000 per injury; the average cost of a fatality was $1.22 million.
The insurance industry reports that non-fatal falls cost $2.5 billion in workers’ compensation claims in the construction industry every year. At the same time, employers are bearing the lost productivity costs resulting from the days of work missed by construction workers due to illness or injury, with more than 130,000 workers missing one or more days in 2020, according to BLS. And employers can also get hit with OSHA penalties ranging from $13,653 to $136,532 for safety violations.
Putting Safety First
Construction firms typically spend more on the cost of injuries than they do on safety training, and many workers feel that safety is not the highest priority for their employers. A study sponsored by NSC found that 67% of construction workers think that their employers maintain higher standards for productivity than for safety. And a survey by 360 Training found that 25% of construction workers worry every day about being injured on the job, and 55% believe more safety training is needed.
With BLS reporting that more than 60% of construction injuries occur within a worker’s first year on the job, and NSC statistics showing that younger workers (ages 25-34) were the most likely to be injured, it makes sense to provide training early on.
Construction companies face enough challenges in completing projects on time and within budget without the additional costs and loss of productivity associated with jobsite injuries. The technology exists to provide quality training on safety measures, through immersive virtual reality training, for example. Wearable technology can also play an important role in keeping construction workers safe on the job. And most construction companies could do a better job at communicating and enforcing safety regulations.
Workplace injuries, especially fatal injuries, can do enough financial harm to make it impossible for a construction firm to live up to its contractual obligations, resulting in a default situation and potential performance bond claims. Making safety a top priority can be the difference between success and failure in the construction business.
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