Construction workplace deaths climbed last year to their highest level since 2008 but the industry’s fatality rate edged downward, the Labor Dept. has reported.
The report, which the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Sept. 17, shows that construction’s 2014 deaths totaled 874 last year, up 6% from 2013, according to preliminary figures.
The 2014 total was the largest number of fatalities since 2008, when BLS recorded 975 construction deaths on the job.
BLS also said that construction’s 2014 fatality rate—which adjusts for changes in the total workforce—declined slightly, to 9.5 per 100,000 full-time-equivalent workers from 9.7 in 2013.
But last year’s rate is still higher than the recent low point of 9.1, recorded in 2011. Construction’s fatality rate has fluctuated within a 9.1 to 9.9 range since 2008. Construction’s workforce has increased in the past several years as the volume of projects has grown.
The lowest number of construction deaths since 2008 was 2011’s 738.
Construction had the largest number of fatal injuries last year among major industries. Transportation and warehousing was second, with 735.
The construction industry's highest recent fatality total came in 2006, when 1,239 workers died on the job. The fatality rate that year was 11.2.
Chris Trahan, deputy director of CPWR-the Center for Construction Research and Training, says, "Obviously, the increase in numbers is troubling. It causes us to continue our resolve to work hard to address traumatic injuries that cause fatalities in our industry."
The totals are preliminary; BLS will issue final figures for 2014 in late spring 2016. Trahan adds, "The [construction fatality] number will go up, once the data is finalized. So it's a little worse than we're actually seeing right now."
Chris Williams, Associated Builders and Contractors director of safety, said via email, "One fatality is too many. ABC's goal remains to help our member companies achieve zero-incidence jobsites in which every worker gets home safe."
Willliams added that ABC will use its safety training evaluations and Safety Academies and with other
Construction's 9.5 fatality rate for 2014 ranked fourth among industries, after agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting, with 24.9; mining/quarrying/oil and gas extraction, with 14.1; and transportation and warehousing, at 13.5.
Over all, BLS said its preliminary figures show there were 4,679 workplace fatalities last year, up 2% from 2013. The national fatality rate was 3.3, the same as in 2013.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement, "Far too many people are still killed on the job—13 workers every day taken from their families."
Perez noted the increased fatalities in construction and oil-and-gas extraction last year and said, "That is why OSHA continues extensive outreach and strong enforcement campaigns in these industries."