Every year, the first Monday of September is set aside in the United States and Canada (Labour Day in Canada) to celebrate the efforts of organized labor. Since 1882, unions have chosen Labor Day to honor working people. Over 100 years later, Labor Day finds Laborers working hard, yet concerned over safety on the job. The latest news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics helps workers and contractors focus on keeping everyone safe.

In August, 2008, the Bureau released the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary for 2007. Preliminary findings in this report revealed that fatal work injuries were down six percent last year. This is the lowest it has been since the Bureau began recording injuries in 1992. Also, deaths in construction saw a decline of seven percent in 2007. 

Yet, more than 1,000 construction workers were killed last year on the job; that is almost 100 every month. Eight hundred and thirty-five workers lost their lives due to falls in 2007 – a record high.

Scott Schneider, the LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health remarks, “We are encouraged by the drop in fatalities last year in construction; however, some areas did not show improvement. For instance, fatal falls increased by two percent in construction last year. Also, many states had increases in overall fatalities, led by Nevada at 28 percent.”

These statistics come at a time when construction safety is in the spotlight due to several highly publicized crane accidents this year – some of which involved the death of Laborers. Also, in Las Vegas, the CityCenter project came under scrutiny from federal and Nevada OSHA after six workers died onsite (for more information, read House Committee Scrutinizes Construction Safety).

 “Another thing to remember is that this is preliminary data. A finalized report on the fatal occupational injuries of 2007 will be released in April 2009,” says Schneider. “The numbers will most likely be revised upwards when they have the final results. So, the decrease in fatalities may not be as large as it currently seems.”

He notes, “We continue to stress the importance of engaging in safety programs and training. Falls are the number one cause of death in construction. Every Laborer has the power to make his or her worksite a safer place.”

For a complete review of the new data, visit the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America is committed to promoting the well-being of Laborers in both the United States and Canada. For more information, contact the Fund’s office at (202) 628-5465.

[Jennifer E. Jones]