Construction Industry Leads Number of Workplace Fatalities

The United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released the national census of fatal occupational injuries for 2006. While the overall fatal work injury rate for the United States was lower than the rate for any year since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992, the construction industry accounted for 1,226 fatal work injuries-the most of any industry sector. This represented a 3-percent increase over the 2005 total of construction industry fatalities. Fatalities among specialty trade contractors rose 6 percent (from 677 fatalities in 2005 to 721 in 2006), due primarily to higher numbers of fatal work injuries among building finishing contractors and roofing contractors.

While safety should always be a priority, the increase in construction industry fatalities and injuries has led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to focus on construction site safety.

"OSHA has an emphasis this year on construction sites [safety]," says Pete Pontikis, senior project manager and safety director at MTH Industries in Hillside, Ill. He advises other glazing contractors to "make sure your projects have the proper information on the job."

Among the required information is the OSHA jobsite safety and health poster, which must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees can see it.

MTH offers safety training for specific events, including training for scaffolding and fall protection. According to the census information, fatal work injuries involving falls increased 5 percent in 2006 after a sharp decrease in 2005. The 809 fatal falls in 2006 was the third highest total since 1992, when the fatality census began. Fatal falls from roofs increased from 160 fatalities in 2005 to 184 in 2006, a rise of 15 percent.

To prevent injuries in any area, construction industry workers-including glaziers-are required to have training in OSHA's safety standards.

"All of our foremen receive OSHA 30-hour cards, which is the 30-hour construction outreach program," says Pontikis. "That's all our glaziers and workers and project managers. All of our journeymen receive a 10-hour card."

Pontikis says MTH also provides project-specific training based on the jobsite hazards or conditions. "Most larger projects are requiring now from the subcontractors site-specific safety plan," he adds. "The first day your crew starts, you go out and do the training."

The numbers reported in the national census of fatal occupational injuries for 2006 are preliminary and will be updated in April 2008. CLICK HERE to read the full report.

CLICK HERE for further safety information from OSHA.