The number of fatal construction jobsite injuries declined in 2020 but the industry’s fatal injury rate rose, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The BLS annual report on fatal work injuries, released on Dec. 16, showed that private-sector construction fatalities moved down 5% in 2020, to 1,008, from 2019’s 1,061.
But the 1,008 total is the same as 2018’s figure and is higher than the number of construction fatalities in any year from 2011 to 2017.
Moreover, the industry’s 2020 fatal injury rate worsened to 10.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, from 9.7 in 2019, and also is the highest rate for at least the past 10 years.
The fatal injury rate is viewed as an important safety indicator because it adjusts for yearly changes in the overall number of workers and in the amount of construction work.
BLS noted that its fatal workplace injury report does not include illness-related information, including COVID-19.
[View 12/16/2020 ENR story on 2019 BLS fatal accidents report, including 2011-2019 figures for fatalities and fatality rate here.]
"One fatality in the construction industry is one too many," Greg Sizemore, Associated Builders and Contractors vice president of health, safety environment and workforce development, said in a statement emailed to ENR.
Sizemore said, "While the annual report is disappointing, it reveals the important truth that much more work must be done in our industry to protect our people from hazards, strengthen safety cultures in the workplace and improve the total human health of the entire construction workforce."
Sizemore noted that ABC has a long-standing program, the STEP Safety Management System, that he said has resulted in dramatic improvements in safety performance.
ABC has reported that the top performers among the association's members that have participated in the program showed an 85% reduction in their total recordable incidents rate.
Brian Turmail, Associated General Contractors of America vice president for public affairs and strategic initiatives, said via email that "while the total number of deaths may have dropped slightly, the fact they are still occurring, and that the rate actually went up, is a reminder that this industry must remain vigilant when it comes to improving workplace safety."
Turmail added, "Contractors may have done a great job avoiding the kind of job-place coronavirus outbreaks that hobbled so many other industries last year. But they stil need to remain focused on the many other job site hazards that inevitably exist in this industry."
Overall, BLS reported that the total number of fatal occupational injuries was down 10.7%, to 4,764 in 2020, from 5,333 the year before.
The national work fatality rate edged down to 3.4 per 100,000 full-time employees, from 3.5% in 2019.
Story updated 12/17/2021 with AGC comments.