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Fatalities are increasing in the U.S. construction industry, particularly among Hispanic workers, as the sector continues to recover from the economic recession, according to a new study.
The number of fatalities among construction workers climbed to 985 in 2015 after dipping to 781 in 2011, a 26% increase over four years, according to a study by CPWR — The Center for Construction Research and Training in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The annual number of fatal falls in construction increased by 36.4% from 269 in 2011 to 367 in 2015, according to the CPWR study. In comparison, 63 employees suffered fatal falls in the manufacturing sector — the second highest number of deaths among major industries.
In 2016, 10.3 million U.S. workers were employed in construction, a 16% increase after construction employment bottomed out in 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although overall construction employment is still lower than the pre-recession level, the number of Hispanic construction workers reached 3 million in 2016, slightly surpassing its peak level in 2007, with nearly 30% of construction workers identifying themselves as Hispanic, according to the data.
Fatal falls increased at a faster pace among Hispanic workers compared to non-Hispanic workers, with the number of deaths of Hispanic construction workers increasing 28.3% from 106 in 2014 to 136 in 2015, according to the CPWR study. In contrast, the number of fall deaths among non-Hispanic construction workers dropped to 217 in 2015, a 10% decrease from 241 in 2014.
Overall, 55.3% of 1,294 fall fatalities in construction between 2011 and 2015 occurred at a height of 20 feet or less, according to data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
Falls from roofs accounted for 33% of fatal injuries while falls from ladders represented 24% of fatalities and falls from scaffolds were 15% of construction deaths between 2011 and 2015.
The latest data was released on Monday in support of the National Fall Prevention Campaign on Workers’ Memorial Day — now in its 6th year.
Over a third of the employees surveyed by the National Safety Council claimed that workplace safety is secondary to performing tasks, according to a report released by the Itasca, Illinois-based organization on Thursday.