Small Companies Make Up Highest Number of Construction Fatalities

Feb. 14, 2019

Smaller construction companies have fewer employers, but they have a high number of construction fatalities, according to a report from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). That may partially be because most construction companies are small organizations, with fewer than 20 employees. There are, however, also concerns that smaller employers may not have adequate health and safety programs in place, possibly due to limited resources, putting their employees at a higher risk of fatal injuries.

Attorneys with Cutter Law have extensive experience advocating for people harmed in construction accidents. We take workplace safety seriously and are committed to holding employers and construction companies to the strictest safety standards because when they fail to uphold those standards, workers’ lives are put at risk. Construction is already a hazardous job, and workers need to know their jobsite is safe. That’s why it’s vital to hold construction companies accountable when they allow workers to suffer construction injuries.

Fatal Construction Injury Rate Jumped from 2008 to 2016

According to the CPWR’s report, in 2016 more than 90 percent of construction companies had fewer than 20 employees, with 81.6 percent having fewer than 10 employees. In 2008, the fatal injury rate at smaller construction companies was around 15.5 per 100,000 wage-and-salary workers. That means that out of every 100,000 workers, 15.5 would suffer a fatal injury. In 2016, that number was 24.4, an increase of 57 percent. In the same period, companies with 20 or more workers experienced a 30 percent drop in construction fatality rates.  

Looking only at 2016, of all fatal construction injuries 67.2 percent occurred in construction companies that employed fewer than 20 people. Meanwhile, between 2003 and 2016, the construction industry had 5,155 work-related fatalities, of which companies with fewer than 20 employees made up 56.6 percent. During the same period, however, small companies only employed around 37 percent of construction workers, meaning they had a disproportionately high fatality rate.

Falls to Lower Levels the Leading Cause of Construction Death

The CPWR study notes that falls to a lower level were the leading cause of construction death from 1992 to 2016, causing almost twice the number of deaths as struck-by incidents, which was the second leading cause of death. In all, falls, struck-by incidents, electrocution, and caught-in or caught-between construction site accidents killed an average of 743 construction workers each year, making up 70 percent of the industry’s annual fatalities. Falls and electrocutions, however, were far more likely to happen to workers at small construction companies. Between 2011 and 2016, almost 62 percent of construction deaths caused by falls happened in companies with 10 employees or less, while 55.6 percent of electrocution deaths also happened in such companies.

“Small construction businesses may face many barriers to implementing health and safety programs, such as limited resources and increasing pressures from business competition,” the report’s authors write. They go on to note that the increased fatality rate for smaller construction companies is alarming.

Road Construction Fatalities Increased from 2013 to 2016

The same organization recently released a report noting that the number of road construction workers killed while on the job increased by 43 percent from 2013 to 2016, with about half of the fatalities involving workers being struck by vehicles or equipment. Workers who functioned as crossing guards had the highest fatality rate, with 40.9 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Fatal Construction Falls Also Increased

In 2017, the CPWR issued a report highlighting that fatal construction falls was on the rise, with the rate increasing 26 percent from 2011 to 2015. Of those 55 percent of fatal falls involved heights of 20 feet or less, 33 percent were falls from roofs, 24 percent involved ladders, and 15 percent involved scaffolding and staging. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, making up 37 percent of construction fatalities.

California Construction Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been harmed in a construction accident, you need an attorney with a proven track record of success in fighting for construction workers. We know how devastating a construction injury can be, and we fight tirelessly to ensure construction workers who are harmed obtain justice for their injuries. We can guide you through the legal process and help you determine your best options, allowing you to maximize your recovery.

We’ve helped our clients in Oakland, Sacramento, and surrounding areas recover hundreds of millions of dollars. Contact us to find out how we can help you.   

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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