In November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued their latest report on injuries on the job. Because BLS injury data lags behind a year, the numbers are for injuries and illnesses in 2019, prior to the pandemic. In 2019, injury and illness rates among construction laborers increased slightly from 2018 levels.
In 2019, 19,790 construction laborers had days away from work due to an injury on the job. The most common cause was sprain and strain injuries (over a quarter of all injuries). Another 17 percent of workers suffered fractures, 17 percent reported soreness (e.g., low back pain, knee pain) and another 12 percent suffered cuts or lacerations. Combined, these four categories made up 73 percent of construction laborer injuries in 2019.
“Employers can reduce risk for these types of injuries during the site planning and design stages, by encouraging workers to practice safe lifting techniques and by providing regular refresher training on potential hazards,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairmen Noel C. Borck. “Protecting the safety of health of workers also helps keep the site running smoothly and ensures projects are completed on time.”
The average number of workdays missed by construction laborers was 11, up slightly from 10 in 2018. Construction laborers had the fifth highest rate of injuries resulting in days away from work, behind only nursing assistants, heavy and tractor-trailer drivers, industrial laborers/materials handlers and light truck drivers.
Comparing construction laborer injury rates in 2019 to construction workers as a whole, injury rates to construction laborers were 39 percent higher. Rates are calculated based on the number of injuries per 10,000 full time workers (assuming 2,000 hours worked per year). The 2019 lost workday injury rate for construction laborers was about 2.3 per 100 workers, which was a four percent increase from 2018.
Looking at the four specific injury types mentioned above, construction laborers had much higher rates of sprain and strain injuries, fractures, cuts/punctures and soreness compared to the wider construction workforce and all workers.
Unfortunately, 2019 continued the trend we saw in 2018 – injury rates in construction are increasing again after many years of consecutive declines. Injury rates for 2020 won’t be available until next fall, so we’ll have to wait a year to find out how worker safety was affected by the pandemic and how many construction workers got sick and had to miss work because of COVID-19.
In the meantime, this data should serve as a reminder that sprains and strains, struck-by injuries and lacerations still make up the vast majority of injuries to construction laborers. For more information on preventing these injuries, LIUNA signatory contractors can order the It’s Your Body pamphlet, the Laborers’ Guide to Preventing Sprains and Strains in Construction pamphlet or a variety of Fund toolbox talks, including Eye Protection, Hand Protection, Head Protection and Safe Use of Hand and Power Tools. These and other publications are available in the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.