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The Construction Industry Boasts A Grim Title

More construction workers died on the job last year than any other industry. We need more unions. 


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has deemed construction to be the most lethal industry in America. In New York City, more than 80% of all on-site deaths occur on non-union jobs.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) paints a harrowing picture of the state of construction in the United States: in the last year, the sector recorded more worker deaths than any other industry. According to their latest Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the construction industry witnessed a staggering 1,069 fatalities— a worrying increase from previous years. The fatality rate also rose, jumping to 9.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. These numbers represent a safety crisis within the sector. They are not merely statistics; they represent lives lost and families shattered.  Fortunately, a solution can be found in the practices and procedures of the unionized construction sector, which typically sees far lower rates of death and injury than the non-union sector.

Construction Is Dangerous Business

Construction sites are inherently hazardous and workers have to contend with myriad dangers everyday. The worst of these dangers, which were once again the leading causes of death, are dubbed the “Fatal Four.” They include: falls from lethal heights, exposure to electricity, being struck by falling equipment, and being crushed by cave-ins or in between machinery. Sadly, despite the dangers being well-known, many on non-union construction sites are sent out to contend with them without the necessary training, equipment or safety procedures in place. As a result, the deaths continue to pile up

Developers need to hire construction outfits with proven cultures of safety and track records of equipping workers to safely contend with the job’s inherent dangers — so they can make it back home.

Setting Off Alarm Bells

The release of these grim statistics set off alarm bells across the sector. The director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) said in a press release that worker deaths in all industries are avoidable and “workers should never, ever have to risk their lives to earn a paycheck.” Meanwhile, Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) told industry outlet Construction Dive: “We live in a world with many intractable problems, reducing workplace deaths and injuries is not one of them. A worker-centered approach, based on sound science, can reduce and eliminate the hazards we face on the job, and result in fewer empty seats during next year’s holiday celebrations.” New York City’s construction unions could not agree more.


Construction work doesn't need to be the most dangerous job in the country.

Unions Are The Solution

Fatalities on construction sites may seem like an intractable problem until you consider the fact that they happen almost exclusively on non-union job sites. In fact, most years in New York City see zero worker fatalities on union construction sites. The stark contrast is attributable to the comprehensive safety procedures, intensive training programs, and strict adherence to safety regulations that characterize construction unions. They ensure that worker safety is a priority, not an afterthought.

If the construction industry is to reverse its rising fatality rate, developers need to hire construction outfits with proven cultures of safety and track records of equipping workers to safely contend with the job’s inherent dangers and make it back home. In short, they need higher union. 


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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