Ironworker, Power Installer Work Related Deaths Down

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

Statistics on construction worker deaths from 1992 to 2001, indicating that deaths are down for ironworkers, power installers, painters and electricians but up for welders.
Nov 2003

The bad news is, the work-related death rate from injuries for all construction held steady in the decade 1992-2001. The good news is, death rates for the two highest-risk trades are much lower. Rates are down also for electricians and painters.

Xiuwen Dong and James Platner of CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training compared federal government data over 10 years to spot the trends.

For ironworkers, in 2001, the death rate from injuries was 76 per 100,000 full-time equivalents, compared with 145 in 1992, a drop of 48%. For power installers 49, compared with 151 10 years earlier, a drop of 68%.

Electricians' death rate from injuries dropped from 16 to 12; painters saw a decline from 11 to 9. For other construction occupations, the death rates remained unchanged – except welders, who saw nearly a doubling, from 22 to 40.

To compare construction to other industries, death and injury rates are measured in full-time equivalents. That is because job completions and weather mean that not all construction workers work full time in the industry. A full-time equivalent is 2,000 hours worked per year.

Frank Migliaccio, director of safety for the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, said the improvement in his trade's statistics can be credited to intensive labor-management efforts to improve safety training and onsite safety consciousness, particularly in fall protection. "The effort continues," he added. "I just hope it keeps going."

The numbers continue to be poor for construction compared with other industries. As of 2001, construction had just over 6% of the workforce, but 21% of work-related deaths from injuries. For all other industries combined, in 2001, the rate of work-related deaths from injuries stood at 3.9 per 100,000 full-time equivalents.

No one knows the number or rate of fatal work-related illnesses in construction, because of the long time between exposures to hazards and deaths from such illnesses like cancers and silicosis.

Data reported in The Construction Chart Book, Third Edition, 2002 and elsewhere show smaller construction companies have the highest death rates. And more than 90% of construction companies have fewer than 20 employees. So, it is important to focus on small contractors.