Breaking down the AGC’s construction safety report: Age, region, trade and even time of day are major factors

Updated Apr 10, 2017

Screen Shot 2017 04 06 At 3 47 06 PmThe Associated General Contractors of America released a comprehensive study of accidents in the construction industry Tuesday.

The 30-page report, Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry, is available as a free PDF download at the link below and is well worth your time to read and analyze if you are a construction company owner, supervisor or safety officer. Below I’ll list some of the findings that jumped out at me and some takeaways (these are my opinion, not the study’s) as what the results of the study imply.

You might also want to review the findings in the study and compare them to your own accident statistics. Doing so can help you get a fix on where your company is weakest or differs from the norm. With that information, you can custom tailor your safety training and accident program to match your company’s unique circumstances.

♦  Finding: “Small construction establishments with 1-9 employees accounted for 47% of fatalities and the highest fatality rate at 26 fatalities per 100,000 workers annually.”

Takeaways: Clearly small construction companies are more dangerous to work for than the larger firms. We can assume this is because the smaller companies don’t have rigorous safety programs or drug testing protocols and employ less experienced workers.

♦  Finding: “Ratios suggest a steady increase in the fatality rate from age 35, with the peak among workers age 65 or more (19 deaths per 100,000 workers per year).”

Takeaways: One might think the older more experienced workers would be more safety conscious, but that seems not to be the case. What to make of this? It could be that older workers get too comfortable with certain routines and let their attention run on autopilot thus failing to notice changes that cause accidents. Or it may be that older workers lack the mental or physical acuity to do the job properly and are sometimes tempted to take unsafe shortcuts.  Your safety training should account for this.

♦  Finding: “Hispanic workers accounted for 25% of all fatalities, which is equivalent to the Hispanic employment proportion (24%) in the construction industry.”

Takeaways: Ten years ago, Hispanics were over-represented in construction accident and fatality reports. The change for the better is likely due to rising awareness of the problem, increasing skill levels and professionalism among Hispanic construction workers, and more Spanish-language training and safety materials. Good.

♦  Finding: Southern states had the most construction accident deaths: 17 per 100,000 workers. The Midwest was close behind at 16 deaths per 100,000 workers. The Northeast reported 13 deaths per 100,000 and the West had just 10 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Takeaways: Lower wages, lack of unionization and training probably account for the South’s fatal legacy. In the West, California in particular, many construction jobs are unionized and vocational training is more widely available.

♦  Finding: The specialty trades had more deaths than building construction or heavy-civil (56 percent, 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively) but only because there are more people working in the specialty trades. The annual fatality rates per worker put the heavy and civil category at 24 deaths per 100,000 workers, specialty trades at 13 deaths per 100,000 and 11 deaths per 100,000 for building construction.

Takeaways: Simply this: The heavy-civil side of construction is extremely dangerous, with heavy equipment and trucks running around the jobsite, deep trenches, roadside construction, tilt-up concrete walls, crane operations and other hazards.

♦  Finding: Fatality rates peak in July and August.

Takeaways: These are the busiest and hottest months where crews are working the longest hours. Recognize this and take steps to keep workers from thinking they are too busy to do safety briefings and to avoid taking shortcuts under the pressure of deadlines. Make sure everybody takes preventive steps to avoid heat stroke and dehydration. Understand that even a little dehydration can lead to mental confusion and impairment.

♦  Finding: Fatalities peak at noon.

Takeaways: There could be several reasons for this, but a likely cause is that workers are in such a hurry to get into their lunch break that their haste leads to oversights or mistakes, or that come break time, workers let down their guard. Educate your workers to remain vigilant at all times.

♦  Finding: Slips, trips and falls continue to be the leading cause of construction fatalities.

Takeaways: This has been the case for years. Acknowledge it and make sure your safety training and accident prevention programs have a steady diet of education on slips, trips and falls.