Construction workplace fatalities rose 5% in 2012, the first annual increase in six years, and the industry’s fatality rate also increased, reports the Labor Dept.'s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the latest BLS annual report on fatal occupational injuries, released on Aug. 22, there were 775 workplace deaths in the private construction industry last year, compared with 738 in 2011.

The 2012 figures are preliminary; BLS will release updated, final data in April.

The industry’s 2012 fatality rate also went up, to 9.5 per 100,000 full-time-equivalent workers, from 9.1 the year before.

The fatality rate adjusts for the post-recession falloff in construction employment as well as the recent modest upturn.

Until the 2012 increase, construction deaths had shown annual declines since 2006, when the total stood at 1,239.

The construction results run counter to the overall national picture for 2012. BLS reported that total fatal workplace injuries decreased 6.6% last year, to 4,383. The all-industry fatality rate also improved, to 3.2 per 100,000 workers from 3.5 in 2011.

Brian Turmail, an Associated General Contractors of America spokesman, says, “I think all of us want to spend some time going through the numbers and figuring out how we can focus our safety training and how our member firms can focus their safety efforts on really addressing where the data tell us we’ve got problems.”

Turmail says, "One of the things that we have been noticing is that the construction spending rates have been going up faster than employment numbers, in terms of percentage, so perhaps the [fatality] rate is up because you've got a comparable number of workers doing more work than they were a year ago."

He adds, "That being said, I don't think any of us in the construction world will be happy until we see a rate that's zero and a number that's zero."