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Construction Accidents Are a Leading Cause of On-the-Job Injuries and Deaths

Construction sites are notoriously dangerous places. Construction workers are killed and injured on the job almost every day of the year. While employment in the construction industry accounts for only 4 percent of total employment, construction workers constituted 21 percent of workplace fatalities in 2015. Injuries also are more common in construction than any other industry — nearly 72,000 construction workers suffered on-the-job injuries in 2015. And in 2016, out of the 4,693 employee on-the-job deaths in private industry, 991 were in construction – once again, about 21 percent of all on-the-job fatalities in the private sector. In other words, one in five employees in the private sector who suffered a fatal accident on the job during 2016 was a construction worker.

Construction workers face tough odds when it comes to injuries. Almost all construction workers will suffer some sort of injury over the course of a career in construction, often more than one. The risks of on-the-job injuries for construction workers include:

  • Ten percent of construction workers are injured to some extent on the job every year.
  • During a 45-year career, the odds of a construction worker suffering a fatal injury is 1 in 200.
  • The industry is particularly hazardous for young people – 60 percent of workplace injuries in the construction industry occur in the first year on the job, and the industry ranks second for fatal injuries suffered by workers younger than 18. 
  • From 2002 through 2012, 19.5 percent of all workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry.

Causes of Construction Deaths and Injuries

There is no doubt that a construction worksite is a hazardous place. Potential causes for injuries – minor, serious, or even fatal – abound. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that other than highway collisions, four major categories account for the vast majority of construction deaths. These are:

  • Falls
  • Being struck by an object
  • Electrocution
  • Being crushed between or by objects. This includes being run over by a vehicle, trapped in a collapsing structure or tunnel, or crushed between vehicles or pieces of equipment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these leading causes of death for construction workers also ranked among the leading causes of injuries, although with some differences. The four most common causes accounted for more than two-thirds of construction-worker deaths in 2015 and a similar proportion of serious injuries. Of those causes, though, falls are the greatest cause of fatal construction injuries and the third-leading cause of non-fatal injuries. In addition, the most-violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations involve fall protection measures. 

However, not all of the leading causes of fatal construction accidents rank among the leading causes of non-fatal construction accidents. The leading cause of non-fatal injuries resulting in time lost from work is over-exertion. While almost never fatal, exertion was the top cause of lost-time injuries in 2010, accounting from more than a third of the lost-time injuries that year. As noted above, falls lead the non-highway related fatalities, but are third in non-fatal injuries. Still, falls accounted for one in four lost-time construction injuries in 2010. Highway-related accidents accounted for 26 percent of construction fatalities in 2010, but only 4 percent of non-fatal injuries. Being struck by an object caused one-third of non-fatal injuries in construction in 2010, but only 18 percent of fatal injuries. While exertion was the leading cause of days away from work (DAFW), being struck by an object was the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the construction industry in 2010.

A lesser source of construction injuries in terms of total numbers involves workplace injuries that result in amputations. While these accidents represent less than one percent of all construction accidents, they account for a disproportionate amount of time lost from work and costs per claim. From 1992 through 1999, construction workers suffered 171 fatal construction site amputations and more than 88,000 non-fatal construction site amputations. These injuries tend to be more severe and result in more lost time from work as well as higher claims costs. In 1996-97, amputation injuries were the most costly claims by injured workers, averaging more than $18,000 per claim. These injuries also resulted in more lost work time, averaging 18 days of DAFW for non-fatal amputations, compared to just 6 days of DAFW for all other injuries and illnesses combined.

The BLS estimates there are thousands of non-fatal workplace amputations each year. Primary causes include defective machinery and workplace negligence, as well as improperly maintained heavy machinery, poorly manufactured heavy machinery, and improper employee training and supervision.

The construction trades are dangerous. The jobs that make up the construction industry entail the use of heavy equipment, potentially dangerous tools, working far above the ground where the risk of a fall frequently carries the risk of death, and many other potentially dangerous situations. The death and injury statistics show that the perception of danger in the construction industry is, in fact, reality. While statistics on leading causes of construction-site accidents often purposely omit highway-related accidents, highway accidents also constitute a significant risk to construction workers.

Worksite accidents are almost never the sole fault of the injured employee. When a construction worker is injured on the work site, even if the only recourse is workers’ compensation, the construction worker almost always has recourse to recover compensation for his or her injuries. In instances where employer negligence plays a role in the injury, the options for recovery can expand beyond workers compensation. No matter what the circumstances of your injury, you should consult with an attorney to determine what your options are and to protect your rights to just compensation for your losses.

If You Have Been Involved in a Construction Accident in the Chicago Area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes

If you have been involved in a construction accident, you may have legal options available to recover compensation for your injuries. The attorneys of Abels & Annes can help. You can reach us at (312) 924-7575 or through our website.