Smaller Firms, Older Workers at Special Risk for Construction Fatalities

Small construction establishments with 1-9 employees accounted for 47 percent of fatalities in the years 2010-2012. And older workers were at greater risk than younger from dying in a construction-related accident.

Those findings were among several uncovered in a study commissioned by the Associated General Contractors of America and conducted by the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech.

The study was the first of its kind on several levels to dive deeper into existing information on fatalities with an eye towards learning new methods of preventing worker fatalities. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were used.

In review of establishment size, the 2012 Economic Census in the study noted that roughly 80 percent of construction establishments employ fewer than 10 people. They account for 25 percent of total construction workers and yet disproportionately account for 47 percent of all construction fatalities. Establishments with 10-49 employees, employing 34 percent of all construction workers, accounted for 18 percent of fatalities. Mid-sized establishments with 50-99 employees, employing 13 percent of construction workers, suffered 6 percent of fatalities. Large establishments, with more than 100 workers, with 28 percent of the construction workforce, had 12 percent of fatalities.

Another interesting finding relate to the age of workers. Younger, more inexperienced workers did not account for most fatalities. In fact workers 35-54 years of age accounted for 50 percent of fatalities. Ratios suggest a steady increase in the fatality rate from the age of 35 on, with the peak among workers age 65 or more.

Some additional results of the study:

  •  Unlike previous studies, most fatalities in the years 2010-2012 occurred between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with a peak at noon. Previous studies found that occurrence of fatalities was most dominant between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and bottomed around noon.

Falls remain the leading cause(33 percent) of deaths in construction, accounting for one-third of all fatalities. Falls were commonly from buildings, other structural elements and ladders.

Southern states accounted for 46 percent of fatalities, more than twice that of any other region, even with employment numbers factored in. RB

The entire 30-page report, “Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry” which includes suggestions for potential action, can be downloaded from the the Associated General Contractors of America website:

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