Construction One of the Most Dangerous Industries for California Workers

April 25, 2018

When it comes to construction in California, business is booming. Almost 28,000 new construction workers were hired in Southern California alone from February 2017 to 2018, and the rush is on to build new housing in the Bay Area.

While that’s good news for some, with the growth comes the potential for another increase: Injuries and fatalities for California construction workers. The industry is one of the most dangerous in the state for employees, and recent years have seen the number of incidents go up, not down. It’s not just an issue that California is facing, construction worker fatalities went up 6% between 2015 and 2016 (the last years for which the data is available) across the nation.

Further growth in the industry within the Golden State may mean more urgency to finish buildings (and less attention to safety standards), adding even more risk to an already risky field.

Construction Worker Ranks as the Fourth Deadliest Job in California

Some of the deadliest jobs in California are what one might expect—loggers and aircraft pilots top the list, for example—but some are surprising. One of those is the construction worker, a position held by many and not generally thought to be a life-threatening pursuit. According to a report released by The Sacramento Bee, however, it’s near the top of the list.

The report was compiled using annual fatality rates from 2012 to 2016 that were obtained through U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the California Department of Industrial Relations data. It found that the fourth most deadly job in California (behind loggers, aircraft pilots, and truck drivers) was the construction worker.

According to the publication, 114 construction workers died while on the job in the four-year span analyzed. This amounts to a rate of 23.6 per 100,000 workers and is in keeping with other data from recent years.

The number of Fatalities Increase in Both California and the U.S.

Safety concerns in the California construction industry have loomed for some time now. An April 28, 2017, Worksafe report entitled “Dying at Work in California,” a suggested a notable increase in construction worker fatalities.

The report identified a staggering 34 percent increase in the fatality rate within the California construction industry for 2015 (moving from 4.5 in 2014 to 6.8 in 2015). It made for “the highest fatality rate for construction since 2005.” Transportation incidents falls, slips and trips were highlighted as some of the causes for the increase in deaths.

More recent national data echoes what the Worksafe study found, with construction worker fatalities throughout the U.S. increasing 6% between 2015 and 2016. The industry also had the most workers deaths of any industry studied (for a total of 991 workers deaths). In short: More construction workers are dying on the job than in any other field.  

Early 2018 Has Already Seen Incidents Across State

Despite being just four months into the year, construction site accidents have already made California headlines in 2018.

Most recently, on March 6, 2018, a man was crushed while working on a high-speed rail site in Fresno. According to the Cal/OSHA investigation, “workers were hoisting a metal rebar wall when the rigging hoisting the wall failed.” Forty-eight-year-old Jerry Oullette was crushed, with each of his ribs, his clavicle, his arm and his foot broken, among other injuries. Oulette, who was working for a steel contractor, is unlikely to ever walk again.

On February 16, 2018, four construction workers were injured when a plank they were on gave way in an under-construction building in North Hollywood. Three of the individuals were injured critically, and other workers on the site questioned why the task they were completing wasn’t being done with a crane or lift.

Three other construction workers suffered a similar fall while working on a building in San Diego on January 30, 2018. The individuals were working from scaffolding approximately 16 feet above the ground when the scaffolding gave way for unknown reasons. All the workers sustained traumatic injuries.

Legal Action May Make Industry Safer

While there is important compensation that must be pursued and provided for construction workers injured on the job, taking legal action after such an injury serves multiple purposes. It can create reform in the construction industry and ensure that safety standards are adhered to in similar situations in the future. It may be a necessary tool to improve wellbeing for California’s construction workers.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a construction accident, contact Cutter Law to discuss with one of our experienced attorneys how you can take action for yourself and your fellow workers. We are committed to getting justice for injured clients and their loved ones.

Personal injury and civil justice attorney Brooks Cutter is a leading advocate for consumer justice and protecting the rights of the severely injured. Brooks founded Cutter Law, P.C., with offices in Sacramento and Oakland, with…
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