Was the industry any safer last year? Depends on who you talk to.

New data ENR obtained today from the U.S. Dept. of Labor confirm that last year was not just one of the worst years for crane accidents in recent history, it was the worst year by far, while overall construction fatalities continued on a downward trend.

The number of crane-related fatalities recorded in 2008 paints a gruesome picture of how well employers took care of crane workers last year. Deaths skyrocketed more than 37% over the prior year, and last year's 92 fatalities contrast sharply with 67 in 2007 and 72 in 2006. The lowest number for the six-year period of 2003-2008 was recorded in 2003, with 62 fatalities.

Keep in mind that these are total numbers, and not all these fatalities may have been construction related. But even so, BLS flagged 51 of these deaths as related to a construction project, and that still is the highest number recorded in the category since 2003. Overall, the average number of crane deaths climbed to about 81 for the five-year period between 2004-2008 according to BLS.

So, back to my original question, is the industry any safer? Watch this space—we will have more commentary in next week's ENR in print and on the Web.

Fatal Occupational Injuries Involving Cranes: 2003-2008

2003: 62

2004: 87

2005: 85

2006: 72

2007: 67

2008: 92

Source: BLS.