Editorial
 
Death on the Job
Falls Still Account for the 
Majority of Construction Job Fatalities

Have you every listened to a politician and come to the conclusion that they were

talking out of both sides of their mouth?  Let me rephrase that.  Have you ever listened

to a politician?  Same thing.


We fielded several queries about an updated report on the job fatality stats that we

publish every year.  Well, this year the report was more delayed than ever.  The United

States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) usually releases the stats for the previous year in September.  This year, their report on 2015 job fatalities was released mid-December 2016, and you’re reading this in January 2017.  That means the figures presented here are a year out of date.  In this age of instant access and information overload, it’s refreshing to see our federal bureaucracies are still operating slower than a herd of snails traveling through peanut butter.  No threat of overwork or job stress here.  Nonetheless, these figures are as up-to-date as it’s going to get for another year.


A death on the job is not a pleasant subject, and I know of several contractors who have gone through this terrible experience.  Even one death is a tragedy, and I’m not making light of the situation, but merely presenting the numbers as compiled by the BLS.  One of the opening lines of the report states that the annual total of 4,836 fatal workplace injuries in 2015 was the highest since 5,214 fatal injuries in 2008.  While this may be true, it’s hardly alarming.  According to the BLS's own figures, the total number of fatal work injuries rose slightly from 4,821 in 2014 to 4,836 in 2015.  As the economy improves, more people are working and more accidents are bound to happen.  The only guaranteed way to reduce this number to zero fatalities is for everyone to be out of work.


By far, the most dangerous industry is, was, and will probably continue to be, highway transportation, accounting for 2,054 transportation-related deaths in 2015, or 39.4% of the total.  Highway deaths have topped the BLS list for a long time, and this isn’t likely to change.  Construction deaths accounted for 924 of the total fatalities in 2015, of which 75 were roof workers.  Fall fatalities, including from ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or through openings numbered 793 in 2014 and 648 in 2015, a significant reduction.  Despite this reduction, fatal falls continue to account for the vast majority of construction job-related deaths, almost 70% during 2015.  Of these fatal falls, 18% were from a height of 30’ or more and 13% were from a height of 11’ to 15’.


Twenty-one states reported higher workplace fatalities in 2015 than the previous year while 29 states had fewer.  Texas holds the dubious honor of the most job fatalities with 527, while California is a distant second at 388.  Of these fatalities, 93% were male, while only 7% were female.  Now you know why the average pay for men is more than women: men are willing to take the more dangerous, higher-paying jobs.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  The BLS compiled the figures.  I just report them.


If you just can’t get enough of these labor statistics, go to http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf.


Marc Dodson

editor