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What Are America’s Most Dangerous Jobs in Construction?

We don’t always think that going to work is a dangerous thing, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.9 million workplace illnesses and injuries reported each year. Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, with lumber jobs and fishing topping the list. If you look at the industry that is responsible for the most deaths however, you’ll find the dubious winner is construction.

It should come as no surprise that construction can be a dangerous occupation: workers are exposed to temperature extremes, operate heavy machinery, and work from significant heights. But even in the construction industry, there is considerable variation. Operating a crane, for example, is less dangerous than working on scaffolding. Here are the most dangerous jobs in you can have in construction:

#1. Roofers

In the construction industry, roofers have the highest fatal injury and death rate, at a rate of 47.4 per 100,000 workers. That number has increased from 2013, when the rate was 40.5, and total deaths increased from 72 to 83. According to OSHA records, failing to have fall protection is the most frequent violation in construction, which helps explain why the injury rate is so high for these workers.

#2. Steel/ Frame Workers

Structural iron and steel workers in construction have one of the highest fatal injury rates, which comes as no surprise. These workers are frequently on scaffolding and complete most of their work high off the ground. Swinging steel bars present other hazards. The most common cause of construction death is falls, at 39%, and steel/structural frame workers make up a good portion of this number.

#3. First-Line Supervisors

Next in line for construction accidents are first-line supervisors and extraction workers, who frequently work close to the ground surrounded by heavy machinery. The fatal injury rate of these workers is 17.9. Given that the second most frequent cause of death in construction is being struck by an object, this makes sense. Even when wearing appropriate protection, heavy projectiles can cause head and spinal cord injuries.

#4. Laborers

General laborers on the construction site are also vulnerable to serious injury, with a fatal injury rate of 16.9. These workers can be found doing virtually anything on a construction site, from working in trenches to scaling scaffolding. General laborers may become injured from falls, getting caught in tight spaces, or being struck by objects.

#5. Electricians

Painters and electricians virtually tie for fifth place, with fatal injury rates of 10.8 and 10.4, respectively. Painters, like roofers, must work from dangerous heights at times, making them prone to falls. Electricians face the threat of electrocution from improper wiring or a failure to communicate on the site. Painters, like roofers, must work from dangerous heights at times, making them prone to falls. Electricians face the threat of electrocution from improper wiring or a failure to communicate on the site.

What can I do to Reduce the Chances of a Construction Accident?

Together, these five professions make up what OSHA refers to as the “Fatal Four” of construction: falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in between objects. Members of these professions are more likely to sustain serious, even fatal injury than the rest of their peers. For this reason, they must observe more safety precautions, like:

  • Always wear fall protection, including harnesses and helmets.
  • Dressing appropriately for the job. Workers should always wear a hard hat, sun protection, and heavy duty boots that grip scaffolding.
  • Pay attention to load limits. Workers should always take note of the weight limits for scaffolding and never exceed it. They should also never use anything to extend their height on scaffolding, such as ladders and boxes.
  • Wear appropriate chemical protection at all times when working on a construction site. Potentially dangerous materials such as lead, asbestos, and silica require proper ventilation.

Construction may be one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, but with some preparation everyone can reduce their risk of injury. Employers must also take steps to ensure their work environment is as safe as possible.

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