Construction work has always been one of the most dangerous ways to earn a living in this country, but research is revealing that working construction jobs is becoming more and more dangerous today. Construction workers are at a very high risk of suffering serious injuries with long-term or permanent damage or even dying in a fatal construction work accident.
According to the latest research, construction is on the upswing. More and more buildings, homes, roads, bridges, etc., are being built now than in decades past. In 2015, 88,000,000 square feet of new construction was built by American workers in New York City alone.
And, to the surprise of no one involved in representing construction workers and their families, there has been a corresponding increase in construction workers getting hurt while working on the job. Accidents rates are skyrocketing for construction workers.
The 2015 Union Findings for Legal Protections of Workers: It’s Not There
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is the largest worker’s organization in this country, a federation of unions working together to protect the American worker. The AFL-CIO works in many ways to fight against the “profits over people” mentality of many company employers, both in Indiana and Illinois and across the country.
Today, for instance, you can read their “Poster Child for Corporate Greed” of the week on their blog. Always interesting. And the AFL-CIO does much more than this: it monitors and studies the state of the American economy and how American workers are being protected and kept safe on the job (or not) in all kinds of industries.
And for construction workers in our area, there are some sobering findings from a recent AFL-CIO research report. In their 2015 edition of the annual Death on the Job Report, the AFL-CIO reports that 150 workers die while working on the job each day in our country.
Meanwhile, according to the union’s research, some scary statistics:
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the state OSHA plans have a total of 1,882 inspectors (847 federal and 1,035 state inspectors) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under OSHA’s jurisdiction.
This means there are enough inspectors for federal OSHA to inspect workplaces once every 140 years, on average, and for state OSHA plans to inspect workplaces once every 91 years.
The current level of federal and state OSHA inspectors provides one inspector for every 71,695 workers.
Added to this, another frightening reality: while there are penalties on the books in the federal statutes to fine employers who violate OSHA safety regulations, the amounts are much too low to bother most American companies. According to the report, the average penalty for a serious OSHA violation in 2014 was only $1,972.00. For penalties where a worker died, it wasn’t much more: $5,050.00.
And the criminal laws on the books, designed to protect workers from being hurt or killed on the job? AFL-CIO discovered that a mere 88 criminal prosecutions of employers have been undertaken in federal courts since 1970. And then, the worst punishment? A single defendant got 100 months in jail. That’s it.
Construction Work is Extremely Dangerous Work
Here in Indiana and Illinois, we see construction workers doing all sorts of things. They are building our highways and interstates. Construction workers are busy building homes and office buildings and warehouses. They’re doing more than building new stuff, too: there’s also the job of repair and maintenance on existing structures.
Construction workers are skilled craftspeople, working in a variety of areas that require special skills. They must deal with sophisticated equipment and materials, like power tools and explosive chemicals. They have to know how to work with electricity and metal, as well as being able to do their work in dark areas (like excavation) or confined spaces or from great heights.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of fatal work injuries for construction workers rose 9% in 2014.
Construction work is considered one of the “Fatal Four” industries (the four deadliest kinds of work); construction workers are in danger of being killed most often by fall accidents (like from scaffolds, etc.) followed by electrocution, being hit by an object, and caught in/between (machinery, equipment, etc.).
These are often horrific and painful incidents with high levels of pain and suffering.
Even more disheartening is the fact that many of these construction worker accidents are preventable and need not have happened. Negligence and neglect on the part of employers and supervisors is all too often the reason that a construction worker dies — and his family and friends lose their loved one in a needless tragedy.