Online 24/7+Friendly Toll Free Service
6-6 Pacific/9-9 Eastern (Monday-Friday)

How Much Safer is the Construction Industry Today?

Since the industrial revolution, safety in the construction industry has been the subject of many tragedies, debates, and improvements. Today, as technology improves and job practices are updated, the worksite in America is safer than it has ever been before. But how much safer? To answer this question, let’s take a look back at some of the most notable construction projects in American history as well as statistics before and after the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Based on this timeline that calculates the human costs of iconic construction projects around the world, the unimportance of construction safety throughout United States history is very apparent. For example, some of the most deadly projects include the Erie Canal in 1825 with 1,000 fatalities and a death rate of 20 workers per every thousand, the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 with an estimated 1,200 fatalities and death rate of 80 workers per thousand, and the Hawks Nest Tunnel in 1931 with at least 734 fatalities and an alarming death rate of 152.8 workers per thousand. Even less than 50 years ago, the World Trade Center in 1970 saw 60 of its 3,500 person workforce perish over the course of construction. Based on this timeline that calculates the human costs of iconic construction projects around the world, the unimportance of construction safety throughout United States history is very apparent. For example, some of the most deadly projects include the Erie Canal in 1825 with 1,000 fatalities and a death rate of 20 workers per every thousand, the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 with an estimated 1,200 fatalities and death rate of 80 workers per thousand, and the Hawks Nest Tunnel in 1931 with at least 734 fatalities and an alarming death rate of 152.8 workers per thousand. Even less than 50 years ago, the World Trade Center in 1970 saw 60 of its 3,500 person workforce perish over the course of construction.
Bilingual Contractor's First Aid Kits ranging from 10 person kits to 50 person. These kits are appropriate for Construction Worksites and Contractor use to comply with Federal OSHA regulation 1910.151(b), ANSI Z308.1-2009, ANSI Z308-1-2009 as well as Cal/OSHA 3400 section guidelines and Cal/OSHA Title 7, Subchapter 4. Construction Safety Orders §1512. Bilingual Contractor's First Aid Kits ranging from 10 person kits to 50 person. These kits are appropriate for Construction Worksites and Contractor use to comply with Federal OSHA regulation 1910.151(b), ANSI Z308.1-2009, ANSI Z308-1-2009 as well as Cal/OSHA 3400 section guidelines and Cal/OSHA Title 7, Subchapter 4. Construction Safety Orders §1512.

To put these figures in perspective, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 a total of 4,585 people died from fatal workplace injuries, with only 828 coming from construction accidents. Therefore, even though some of these single projects took place over a hundred years ago, they still accounted for more construction deaths than an entire year of all construction in today's day and age! In fact, prior to the creation of OSHA in 1971, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. Since then, OSHA has been responsible for raising safety awareness as well as cutting workplace deaths by 60% and occupational injuries by 40%, even though US employment has almost doubled. Because of this heightened concern for safety in recent years, today our threshold for what constitutes terrible working conditions is much lower. Going back to the timeline, the construction of the Las Vegas CityCenter in 2009, which was dubbed “CityCemetery” by many of its builders, was only responsible for 6 deaths with a death rate of .75 per every thousand. Clearly the human costs that we as a society are comfortable with have changed drastically in a relatively short period of time.

Although this is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of work to do. The above statistics only take into account fatalities, and in 2013, there were over 3 million-non fatal workplace related injuries reported that were serious enough to merit days off work or restrict regular duties. Sadly, many of the same hazards that harmed workers in the past still are still very real issues today. For example transportation accidents accounted for 40% of all workplace deaths with both slip and falls and being struck by equipment coming in at 16% each in 2013. Although these types of accidents occur much less frequently, workers in all industries remain at risk from some very basic threats.

Construction First Aid Compilation Image OSHA requires that adequate first aid supplies
should be available for employees.

After reviewing all of the data, it is clear that construction in the United States has become exponentially safer in the past few decades, saving thousands more lives than even 40 years ago. Due in part to the efforts of OSHA and the general improvement of technology, construction worker fatalities are far less frequent than in years past, even with double the workforce. Nevertheless, thousands of workers still face fatal and disabling injuries each year, meaning there is plenty left to achieve in the realm of construction safety in the coming years.

deathratebar1Rob Tindula writes from DiMarco Araujo Montevideo, a personal injury and workers’ compensation firm in Orange County, California.Since the industrial revolution, safety in the construction industry has been the subject of many tragedies, debates, and improvements. Today, as technology improves and job practices are updated, the worksite in America is safer than it has ever been before. But how much safer? To answer this question, let’s take a look back at some of the most notable construction projects in American history as well as statistics before and after the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Based on this timeline that calculates the human costs of iconic construction projects around the world, the unimportance of construction safety throughout United States history is very apparent. For example, some of the most deadly projects include the Erie Canal in 1825 with 1,000 fatalities and a death rate of 20 workers per every thousand, the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 with an estimated 1,200 fatalities and death rate of 80 workers per thousand, and the Hawks Nest Tunnel in 1931 with at least 734 fatalities and an alarming death rate of 152.8 workers per thousand. Even less than 50 years ago, the World Trade Center in 1970 saw 60 of its 3,500 person workforce perish over the course of construction.

To put these figures in perspective, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 a total of 4,585 people died from fatal workplace injuries, with only 828 coming from construction accidents. Therefore, even though some of these single projects took place over a hundred years ago, they still accounted for more construction deaths than an entire year of all construction in today's day and age! In fact, prior to the creation of OSHA in 1971, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. Since then, OSHA has been responsible for raising safety awareness as well as cutting workplace deaths by 60% and occupational injuries by 40%, even though US employment has almost doubled. Because of this heightened concern for safety in recent years, today our threshold for what constitutes terrible working conditions is much lower. Going back to the timeline, the construction of the Las Vegas CityCenter in 2009, which was dubbed “CityCemetery” by many of its builders, was only responsible for 6 deaths with a death rate of .75 per every thousand. Clearly the human costs that we as a society are comfortable with have changed drastically in a relatively short period of time.

Although this is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of work to do. The above statistics only take into account fatalities, and in 2013, there were over 3 million-non fatal workplace related injuries reported that were serious enough to merit days off work or restrict regular duties. Sadly, many of the same hazards that harmed workers in the past still are still very real issues today. For example transportation accidents accounted for 40% of all workplace deaths with both slip and falls and being struck by equipment coming in at 16% each in 2013. Although these types of accidents occur much less frequently, workers in all industries remain at risk from some very basic threats.

After reviewing all of the data, it is clear that construction in the United States has become exponentially safer in the past few decades, saving thousands more lives than even 40 years ago. Due in part to the efforts of OSHA and the general improvement of technology, construction worker fatalities are far less frequent than in years past, even with double the workforce. Nevertheless, thousands of workers still face fatal and disabling injuries each year, meaning there is plenty left to achieve in the realm of construction safety in the coming years.

Rob Tindula writes from DiMarco Araujo Montevideo, a personal injury and workers’ compensation firm in Orange County, California.

One thought on “How Much Safer is the Construction Industry Today?”

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.