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Construction: one of the deadliest occupations in North Carolina

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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Workplace safety is something that the government of North Carolina and many employers in this state go to considerable lengths to emphasize, and for good reason, Every year, no matter how careful businesses and industries try to be, a certain number of workers will die on the job.

Both the North Carolina Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics carefully monitor and track the number of work site accident fatalities that occur in this state. The data they collect presents a wealth of information, broken down by many categories including occupation, type of injury, and even demographic data.

Some differences exist between the state and federal tracking. The former, for example, uses a monthly report called the Occupational Fatality Investigation Review which is itself based on Occupational Safety and Health Division investigations, while the latter is more broad-based to include all fatal work injuries.

From both reporting systems, it is possible to find some consistent characteristics relating to workplace accident-related deaths. One such data point is that the construction industry continues to be one of the most dangerous in the state.

Using data from the 2009 fiscal year, in a typical year OSH investigates at least 10 construction accident deaths. This number spiked to 18 in 2010; in only one year has it fallen below 10, when seven were reported in 2013. Although the percentage figures vary considerably from year to year, the share of construction accident deaths that figure in OSH investigations averages around one-quarter.

The most current data for the 2014 fiscal year indicates that this has been one of the deadlier years for fatal construction accidents. Of the 26 total fatalities that OSH has investigated through July, just shy of half of them — 12 — have been in construction.

What the numbers also suggest is that construction workers and employers alike continue to need to be alert to conditions that may lead to on-the-job accidents and for employees and contractors especially to report such conditions when they are discovered.

Although it is more preferable to prevent accidents in the first place, the fact is that accidents will continue to happen. People should know that workers’ compensation claims can be available to injured construction workers and death benefits available to the families of those killed on the job.