The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2016. Among all industries, fatal work injuries rose 7% in 2016 (5,190 deaths) over 2015 (4,836 deaths). The fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers also rose from 3.4 to 3.6 year over year.
Specifically in the construction industry, a total of 991 fatal workplace injuries took place in 2016, up from 937 in 2015. The FTE injury rate, however, stayed the same at 10.1. Only two other industries have higher FTE injury rates than the construction industry: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, & Hunting and Transportation & Warehousing. The mining, quarrying, & oil and gas extraction industry was tied for third with construction at 10.1.
Supervisors of construction and extraction workers accounted for 134 of the 991 total construction fatalities last year, which is the highest total for that segment since the yearly census report adopted a standard reporting process in 2003. Construction trades workers accounted for 736 deaths, including 125 roofers, which was also the highest amount since 2003. Trench collapse deaths also more than doubled in 2016.
Transportation incidents accounted for most of the deadly workplace incidents across all injuries, causing 2,083 deaths last year. Overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol, sadly but not surprisingly, rose 32%, from 165 to 217 year over year. Since 2012, workplace overdose fatalities have increased at least 25% each year. Construction has been battling the opioid epidemic harder than many other industries in many cases.
The stagnant rate of fatal injury per FTE rate shows that there were many more construction hours worked in 2016 versus 2015, but it also highlights that there are many more improvements to be made. 991 construction workers didn’t get to go home to their families due to a preventable accident last year. We have to do better.