Roofer, Construction Deaths on the Rise


Deaths of roofers have reached a five-year high in the United States, despite significant overall improvement in the nation's workplace death toll, new federal figures show.

U.S. construction deaths are also back on the rise after a five-year decline, according to preliminary results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The roofing and construction tolls represent disturbing exceptions to the overall figures, which show 4,383 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012, down from 4,693 in 2011—the second-lowest preliminary total since the census was first conducted in 1992.

Deaths among roofers and construction laborers, however, both increased by double-digit percentages in 2012 over the previous year.

Overall, the rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2012 was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from 3.5 per 100,000 in 2011.

Falls Decline, Vehicle Accidents Climb

The death toll from falls, slips, or trips improved slightly from 2011 but claimed 668 lives in 2012; about 81 percent of those were falls to a lower level.

One in four fatal falls to a lower level involved a fall of 10 feet or less. Another one in four involved falls of more than 30 feet.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has increased its resources for fall prevention training, with a Fall Prevention website and a new “Fall Prevention Training Guide" aimed at employers.

The number of workers fatally injured after being struck by objects or equipment increased by 7 percent (to 509), including 233 struck by falling objects or equipment and 199 struck by powered vehicles or mobile equipment.

Transportation incidents accounted for more than two of every five fatal work injuries in 2012. Transportation counts are expected to rise when updated 2012 data are released next year, BLS noted.

Construction, Roofing Deaths Surge

Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector increased by five percent to 775 in 2012—the industry's first increase in six years.

Fatal injuries among construction trades workers rose in 2012 to 577 after five years of decline, while total hours worked increased by one percent. The total marked an eight percent increase over the series low of 533 in 2011, but a 41 percent drop from the high of 977 reported in 2006.

John Massas Family

Painter John Massas has been presumed dead since he fell from the Throgs Neck Bridge in March 2012. Construction-related deaths rose in 2012 after a five-year drop.

Fatal work injuries to construction laborers (the subgroup with the highest number of deaths) increased by 10 percent in 2012, following a series low of 191 in 2011. Fatal injuries to roofers (another subgroup) rose to 70 in 2012, a 17 percent rise from 2011 and the highest count in five years.

Fatal work injuries in transportation and material moving occupations were down 7 percent to 1,150 in 2012.

Contractors Tracked

As of 2011, the department also began to track fatalities by whether the victim was a contractor—defined as "a worker employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site where the decedent was fatally injured."

By that measure, deaths of contractors increased by 16 percent, to 708, in 2012 from the prior year. Falls to a lower level accounted for 30 percent of those deaths. Struck-by (object or equipment) accidents made up 18 percent of contractor deaths; pedestrian vehicular accidents, 11 percent.

Fatally injured contractors were most often contracted by a government entity (151, or 21 percent, of all contractors) and by firms in the private construction (133 or 19 percent); mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (68 or 10 percent); and manufacturing (67 or 9 percent) industries.

Most contractor deaths occurred in the construction and extraction occupations. Most often, the victims were construction laborers (101), followed by first-line supervisors, electricians and roofers.

Ethnicity and Age

Fatal work injuries declined among non-Hispanic white workers (down 10 percent) and Hispanic or Latino workers (down 5 percent) in 2012. Fatal work injuries were higher among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers and non-Hispanic Asian workers.

Ambassador Bridge
Seaway Painting LLC

Painter-blaster Kent Morton, 27, of Garden City, MI, fell to his death from the Ambassador Bridge in January 2012. His employer is contesting five serious citations issued in the case, according to OSHA.

Fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino workers dropped five percent to 708 in 2012; 454 (64 percent) of those deaths involved foreign-born workers. The greatest share of foreign-born workers were born in Mexico.

Fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age nearly doubled, rising from 10 in 2011 to 19 in 2012—the highest total since 2005. Fatal work injuries in the other age groups declined in 2012.

Fatal work injuries among workers 55 years of age and older declined for the second straight year.

The revised 2012 data will be released in the Spring of 2014. Over the past five years, net increases to the preliminary count have ranged from 84 in 2011 to 211 in 2009.

More Data

For more detailed listings on the new preliminary figures, click on any table below.

2012 Fatal Occupational Injuries By...


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Commercial contractors; Contractors; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Health and safety; Labor; Roofing contractors

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