The Toll of Construction Activities on Workers in the U.S.

  • Author: Fazal Umer
  • Posted On: December 29, 2023
  • Updated On: December 29, 2023

America is known for its skyscrapers and incredible architecture. After all, the country is home to the Empire State Building, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the One World Trade Center. 

What isn’t as widely broadcast is the number of fatal and non-fatal injuries that happen in the U.S. construction industry every year. While construction workers make up only 5% of the labor force in the country, around 18% of worker deaths happen in construction. This grim statistic points to an overwhelming reality: The construction industry is claiming far too many lives. 

The Statistics are Horrifying

Of all the industries in the U.S., construction has recorded the second most workplace deaths. This fact means one in five U.S. worker deaths happens in construction. While this trend decreased slightly during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, nearly 1,000 workers died while working on-site in 2021. In 2022, 1,056 workers lost their lives. Moreover, one percent of workers suffer a fatal injury every year. It is still the highest rate of fatal injuries in any industry in the country. 

One of the Most Dangerous Professions in the U.S.

Construction work involves several hazards. Workers dangle from incredible heights, get exposed to hazardous substances, and operate heavy machinery. Considering all the components of a construction site, it is no wonder that the leading cause of death for site workers is falls, slips, and trips.

These incidents account for 35% of construction deaths. They also form part of the so-called “focus four,” which includes being struck by a heavy object, electrocution, and getting caught in an object or machine. Together, the focus four account for more than 60% of construction deaths. 

Non-Fatal Injuries Add to Toll of Construction on Workers

Not all construction incidents lead to death, but around 6% result in severe injuries. Injured workers lose income, so some of them don’t even report work-related injuries. In 2020, 174,100 injuries happened on construction sites in the U.S. These included spine, joint, and nerve injuries. This does not even account for illness rates that have been skyrocketing since 2020. 

Why Are the Injury and Death Rates So High in the Construction Industry?

A lack of sufficient health and safety training is believed to be behind the fatality and injury rates on construction sites in the U.S. Surveys show that more than half of construction workers need more safety training. At the same time, most construction companies spend nearly 4% of their budget on worker’s compensation claims and only 2.6% on adequate training.

Moreover, the first year of work for new employees is the riskiest, with more than 60% of accidents occurring. More often than not, this happens because new workers do not have the opportunity to undergo safety training.

What Is Being Done to Prevent Death and Injury in Construction?

While two-fifths of U.S. construction workers feel like accidents are unavoidable, more than half believe their employers could do a lot more to improve site safety. Over 40% believe they have no choice but to continue working in unsafe conditions. The latest set of statistics revealed that fatalities on construction sites increased by 55%. 

Fortunately, employers are stepping up by taking health and safety more seriously. Some construction companies now use technology to prevent death and injury. For example, many workers now use a multimedia app that offers instant, comprehensive safety instructions. The app designers included different formats to make it easy for workers of all literacy levels to understand. 

Many construction companies have also started using software programs that help evaluate and monitor building and infrastructure safety on site. These programs identify risks and can even suggest a series of interventions. Other technologies that work to prevent death and injury include imaging cameras that detect gas leaks and wearable devices that collect important data to help improve safety on construction sites. 

Moreover, CCTV cameras now include AI technology, allowing them to track construction site activities. These cameras are integral in averting danger on site, especially when workers move heavy objects or engage heavy machinery. 

Improved PPE (personal protective equipment), fall prevention systems, and automated machinery also help protect workers. 

Making Construction Safer for All Workers

Construction companies must use all the technology and safety measures available to them. Also, employers, workers, and regulatory bodies must work together. Regular discussions about safety, as well as ongoing training, can help address safety concerns and hazards before they cause tragedies. This is the only way to strive for a construction future where workers’ labor doesn’t cost their lives. 

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Author: Fazal Umer

Fazal is a dedicated industry expert in the field of civil engineering. As an Editor at ConstructionHow, he leverages his experience as a civil engineer to enrich the readers looking to learn a thing or two in detail in the respective field. Over the years he has provided written verdicts to publications and exhibited a deep-seated value in providing informative pieces on infrastructure, construction, and design.