OSHA and Workplace Safety Data

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is charged with overseeing safety issues in certain types of workplaces and industries. This includes the construction industry.

OSHA specifically defines construction as being “a high hazard industry.” Included within the construction industry as far as specific enterprises is residential construction, commercial construction, bridge erection, roadway paving, excavations, demolitions, and large scale painting jobs. 

According to OSHA, construction workers engage in various activities on a regular and recurring basis that may expose them to serious hazards. These include such hazards as falling from rooftops, contact with unguarded machinery, being struck by heavy construction equipment, electrocutions, and exposure to various harmful substances. 

As part of its mission, OSHA tracks statistics pertaining to workplace accidents of all types, including in the construction industry. These statistics can be illuminating and assisting in putting workplace hazards, accidents, and injuries into perspective.

General Workplace Accident Statistics

According to data maintained by OSHA, Each year, over 4.1 million people in the United States suffer a workplace injury or occupational illness. The annual injury rate in the U.S.A. works out to be about 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers. Over 2 million workers are injured severely enough that they miss work and require ongoing medical care, sometimes for an extended period of time. 

Mid and Small Size Companies and Workplace Injuries

The type of business with the most workplace injuries is a mid size company. These are defined as businesses that have between 50 and 249 workers. It is important to note that a majority of construction companies fall into this category. Construction companies have one of the highest rates of worker injuries in the U.S.A.

Small companies are those that are defined with 11 or fewer employees. Small companies in the country have the lowest reported incidence of workplace injuries.

Workplace Deaths in the United States

An average of 165 people die daily in the United States from different types of occupational diseases every day. Approximately 18 workers in the country die daily from workplace injuries. The combined total of the these two types of fatalities equates to about 1,000 workplace deaths each year in the U.S.A.

Cost of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses, and Deaths

The combined total cost of workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths costs society approximately $155.5 billion annually, according to data from OSHA. This cost has been on the increase over the past decade. It is not expected to abate any time in the near future.

The Preventability of Workplace Injuries

According to OSHA, one of the most alarming facts about workplace injuries is that the vast majority are preventable. The agency reports that only about 4 percent of workplace accidents are caused by technical issues, including faulty equipment. The remainder are due to some sort of preventable, avoidable human error, negligence, or recklessness. In other words, and as was just noted — preventable. 

Construction is One of the Most Dangerous Industries

Another piece of alarming data maintained by OSHA is that construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. The fatality rate in the U.S. construction industry is approximately 15.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. The leading causes of death in the construction industry are:

  • falls
  • car accidents
  • electrocution
  • machine accidents
  • struck by falling objects

One in five workplace deaths and one in 10 workplace injuries or illnesses occurred in the construction industry. 

State by State Examination of Workplace Injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas had more workplace fatalities than any other state. Texas is the third most populated state in the country Texas was followed by California and Florida. 

In a one-year period, the number of workplace deaths increased by 20 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA. These states are:

In 12 states,  

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico

Seven states reported a 20 percent or more decline in workplace fatalities during that same one-year period. Those states are:

  • Alabama
  • Iowa
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The District of Columbia also reported decline of 20 percent or more. As an aside, collecting data on workplace injuries and fatalities remains a problematic endeavor due to reporting issues. An unknown number of workplace injuries, and even some fatalities, are not appropriately reported to OSHA or other agencies to which certain businesses have reporting requirements.

Jessica Kane writes for Advance Online, a leading provider of web-based OSHA. DOT. and HAZWOPER training. 

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