Safety technology and best practices for general construction site safety have come a long way in recent years. However, by the numbers, construction still remains one of the most dangerous professions there is. In 2019, U.S. construction worker fatalities rose to 5 percent, totaling 1,061 deaths – making this the highest number of worker deaths since 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As ever, rigorous training, following proper safety protocols and diligence on the job all go a long way to reducing the number of fatal injuries. Yet, some segments of construction work will probably always lead the pack by virtue of what’s involved. What follows are five of the most dangerous jobs in the industry.
1. Roofing and High-Rise Work
Out of the nearly 1,000 construction worker fatalities in 2017, 40 percent of them were due to injuries sustained by falling. Therefore, falls are by far the most dangerous occupational hazard in the industry. Whether you’re working on the roof of a residential home or hundreds of feet above the city streets on a crane or scaffold, the danger of falling is an ever-present threat. The only thing that’s changing is the increasing severity the higher up you’re working. Hard to predict factors, such as sudden severe weather, can greatly raise the odds of a fall. On top of that, OSHA also reports that fall protection was the most-cited safety standard violation in FY 2018.
2. Demolition Work
Perhaps not surprisingly, working around explosives and falling debris also places as one of the most dangerous jobs in the business. Many factors go into how safely demolition gets done, like gravity, which are well out of the workers’ control. Workers struck by a falling object was the second-leading cause of construction industry deaths in 2017, according to OSHA, representing 8.2 percent of all fatalities.
3. Heavy Equipment Operators
Using heavy machinery safely requires great skill, reinforced by regular training. Operating a multi-ton piece of powerful equipment carries inherent and obvious risks, and a margin of error is truly razor-thin. Every movement of every piece of equipment must be carefully coordinated to ensure on-site safety. Heavy equipment must also undergo proper inspections and maintenance at regular intervals to ensure safe usage. According to OSHA, 5.1 percent of construction worker deaths in 2017 were the result of being struck, crushed or otherwise caught in equipment. Electrocution, another one of OSHA’s so-called “Fatal Four,” represents 7.3 percent of on-the-job deaths.
4. Sewer and Duct Workers
Confined spaces and environmental hazards make working in sewers and ducts a risky environment even for the best-trained workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 percent of fatalities among construction workers in 2014 were caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments. Toxic air or chemicals, as well as electrocution, all pose threats to workers. They also risk being trapped underground, where death by crushing or suffocation is another danger.
5. Freight Hauling/Driving Truck Driver
Tens of thousands of people lose their lives in automotive accidents in the U.S. each year, and driving construction vehicles subjects operators to the same level of risk faced by any other driver. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said 136 deaths, constituting 27 percent of construction industry deaths in 2014, were caused by roadway incidents involving motor vehicles. These included collisions with other vehicles (66), collisions with other objects (33), and incidents not involving a collision, like an overturned vehicle (37).
No matter what area of construction you work in, the risk of serious injury or death is always very real. To reduce the instances of such tragedies, companies’ bear responsibility to guarantee they are meeting or exceeding all relevant safety requirements for jobsites and equipment. It also falls to them to make sure their workers receive proper training in the latest safety standards, and that they’re provided with the necessary gear to minimize the risk of accidents.
To help ensure your jobsite is safe and injury-free, sign up here for the Procore Safety Qualified program. Procore’s free courses are designed to give construction professionals the tools they need to create a culture of safety awareness.