Although the construction industry’s workforce has increased by 31 percent over a ten-year period, the rate of deaths remains unchanged. Between 2011 and 2020, 10 out of every 100,000 workers died from an on-site accident. The consistent death toll underscores the persuasiveness of the opioid epidemic, but also lax safety enforcement. In 2020, the most current data available, 1,008 funerals were held as a result of these incidents. 3 out of 5 of those funerals were caused by the “Fatal Four,” or the top four construction fatalities: falls, electrocution, or incidents where workers are struck or caught between equipment.
There are many dangerous tasks in the construction industry, including working from heights, with heavy equipment, on busy roads, in trenches, and toxic materials, but that’s exactly why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed. However, OSHA continues to grapple with inadequate funding and insufficient staff. For instance, with last year’s personnel levels, it would have taken 236 years for inspectors to visit every workplace in the United States.
The main reason the death toll for construction workers has remained consistent is because OSHA concentrates its limited resources on high-risk risks. After 12 years of consistent personnel reductions, the agency is currently on a hiring binge. Additionally, health and safety standards were not created to prevent the rising incidence of drug overdose and suicide deaths among construction workers. According to experts, OSHA would need to massively increase inspections, strictly enforce fines, use more instruments at its disposal, and expand preventative consultations in order to become a feared enforcer. These factors all need greater resources and personnel.