Construction accounted for the most workplace deaths in 2013, preliminary BLS report says

Updated Sep 16, 2014

BLS worker deaths prelim 2013

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its preliminary tally on the number of workplace deaths for 2013 and despite a slight decrease from 2012, construction leads all other industries in total deaths.

According to the preliminary National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 796 construction workers died on the job in 2013 at a rate of 9.4 workers per 100,000. Construction accounted for 111 more deaths than the industry with the second-most deaths, transportation and warehousing, and 317 more deaths than the industry with the third-highest tally, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.

Despite leading the tally of overall deaths, construction’s death rate of 9.4 was the fourth-highest behind agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting at 22.2; transportation and warehousing at 13.1 and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction at 12.3.

The report attributes the majority of deaths in construction to falls, slips and trips at 37 percent of total deaths. Roadway accidents were next at 12 percent, followed by incidents involving a worker being struck by an object or piece of equipment at 10 percent. Homicide was last at 1 percent.

Overall deaths in the construction industry were about the same in 2012 and 2013 with only 10 fewer deaths occurring in 2013. However, that number is down 36 percent since 2006.

In an interview with Equipment World in July, Dean McKenzie, the deputy director of OSHA’s directorate for construction, noted his concern over the apparent increase in the frequency of construction worker deaths in news reports. McKenzie said it wouldn’t be surprising to see the number of construction deaths go up in 2013 due to an increase in activity and an influx of unexperienced workers.

“We’ve seen the industry come around a bit during the great recession and we’ve seen the housing starts continue to climb and construction activity in general is growing,” he said. “And logic would tell you the fatalaties will continue to climb alongside activity.”

Though the preliminary numbers for 2013 show a slight decrease in construction worker deaths, the BLS will release the final tally next April. Typically, the final tally is a higher number than the preliminary report. And even if the tally of workers remains flat from 2012, McKenzie said in July the only positive direction for that tally is downward.

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The preliminary data says there were a total of 4,405 workplace deaths across all industries in 2013, a decrease of 5 percent since 2012. Worker deaths in the private sector fell 6 percent to 3,929—the lowest annual total since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992.