Construction jobs, particularly in roofing and general labor, are among the most dangerous occupations in the United States. But that situation may be slowly improving, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many jobs fall under the construction umbrella, and each has its own potential hazards. Roofers have a high incidence of fatal falls, while general laborers perform physically demanding work and operate heavy construction machinery.
Ironworkers have one of the highest rates of injury of any U.S. occupation, and are in the top 10 deadliest jobs at 30.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers (as of 2011, the most recent year for which the BLS has numbers).
An Improving Record
While many construction trades consistently land among the most dangerous jobs, the numbers do seem to be improving. The BLS reported a drop in on-the-job fatalities from 802 in 2010 to 781 in 2011. Looking at a wider range, the numbers are even more promising; in 2008 the number of fatalities was 1,016.
It's not just fatality numbers that are improving, either. Over the same four-year period, the total number of recordable injuries dropped from 4.7 per 100 workers in 2008 to 3.9 per 100 in 2011.
Reasons for Improvement
Several factors may help explain the improving safety record in the construction industry.
First, the federal government passed updated regulations that directed state agencies to come up with and implement safety plans for federally-funded road construction zones.
Construction employers have also stepped up their efforts to work with agencies and guidelines such as OSHA (the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act) and the Association of General Contractors of America. On their own and through these partnerships, employers are making an effort to put better safety training and procedures in place.
Finally, part of the improvement may just be a result of a general decrease in the total number of construction projects, due to economic conditions over the past few years.
Staying Safe on the Job
There are several measures employers and construction workers can take to ensure safety and reduce the risk of injuries or fatalities:
* Proper safety training. Every new worker should go through a mandatory, comprehensive safety program that covers possible on-the-job accidents, and how to prevent them;
* Use protective equipment. OSHA has rules requiring all workers to have access to, and to use, protective equipment. Depending on your specific job, this equipment could include protective clothing, a hard hat, goggles, and a protective harness;
* Jobsite organization. Keeping walkways clear, marking zones where forklifts or other machinery may travel, and putting strict rules in place for safe work at height (such as roofing) are all ways to reduce chances of injuries and deaths.
It bears repeating that, even though there are many different construction trades that work with various dangerous equipment, falls remain the leading cause of injury among construction workers.
Diligent use of safety equipment, along with proper training and safety refresher courses, will help keep everyone safe at work.
About the Author: Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer covering topics and people of interest to consumers and small business owners, such as employment information and Steve Wynn.