One of the latest annual reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has troubling news for the construction industry. In the latest installment of the report on "Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work," the BLS found that construction laborers were among the top 10 occupations for the highest injury and illness rates. This provides specific and unquestionable data that demonstrates how important construction safety systems are on the job..
"Data show construction work is among the 10 most dangerous jobs in America."
The BLS data on nonfatal injuries may not come as a surprise to many construction industry experts, but it still serves as a troubling reminder of the constant dangers inherent in the profession. According to the data, 309.7 incidences of injury or illness per 10,000 full-time employees were reported among construction laborers. This made the job one of only six professions where the incidence rate was over 300.
Construction laborers were also one of the few occupations that experienced more than 10,000 total days away from work. In fact, construction laborers spent 22,190 days away from work. In most cases when work was missed, the total time off amounted to 31 days or more. The median number of days off, however, was similar to the median across all occupations, at nine days.
Common injuries and other trends
The BLS data also broke down the injuries and illnesses by category, as visualized by Builder Online. This may help employers target their health and safety initiatives to better reflect the most common causes of injury. Sprains, strains and tears led the list with an incidence rate of 83.3. Fractures were second with a 32.2 incidence rate.
The BLS data also provided insight into the demographics of those injured. Although the average age for a construction worker is nearly 39 years old, most of the injuries reported among laborers in 2014 were from those in the 25-34 age range. This confirms recent reports on the elevated safety risks that burden younger construction workers. A 2015 report from the Department of Health and Human Services investigated the compounded injury rates seen among construction workers who were young and Spanish-speaking. While the recent BLS data showed white construction workers suffered the most injuries numerically, Spanish-speaking workers experience a disproportionately greater rate of injury than their non-Latino coworkers. Being young and Spanish-speaking, according to the DHS report, only multiplies that risk.
Sleep and worker injury
Another interesting trend seen in the BLS injury data is regarding the time of day when workers suffer the most injuries. The data shows that the vast majority of injuries - over 25,000 - occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon (although in nearly 20,000 other cases, the time of the injury was not recorded). The BLS also found that most construction injuries take place on Mondays. Almost 17,500 injuries were reported to have happened on a Monday, with Wednesday coming in second place at just over 15,000, according to BLS data.
This points to a trend of sleep deprivation playing a role in construction accidents and injuries. According to research from Harvard Medical School, more than 274,000 workplace accidents per year could be caused by sleep deprivation. The most common cause of sleep deprivation is insomnia, which can be difficult to treat and manage, especially from the perspective of construction managers. Supervisors should encourage workers to seek treatment for sleep disorders if they think it may be impacting their safety at work. If laborers are especially tired, it may be beneficial to just stay home, especially if their job involves driving, operating machinery or any risky task.
Analyzing and understanding data regarding injuries and illnesses among construction laborers is important for several reasons. Understanding trends in these injuries could help managers or even workers themselves develop tailored safety protocols designed to curtail the most common injuries. The use of innovative construction safety products could also help prevent many mishaps. Ergonomic considerations can help prevent strains that account for debilitating and frequent injuries. Enhanced timecard software could improve scheduling to make time spent at work more conducive to productivity. All of these possibilities and more can spring from understanding these injury and illness trends.