Construction work is known for being dangerous. With the seventh-highest rate of non-fatal injury among all occupations in 2009 alone, construction workers died on the job almost three times the rate that all other workers in the US did. Additionally, while overall workplace fatalities decreased by over 6% in 2012, construction site fatalities actually increased by 11%.
With the technology available today, there is no defensible reason why fatalities should be increasing for construction workers. The construction industry has an obligation to take note of these staggering statistics and make a commitment to ensuring the safety of its workers. If production is prioritized over the lives of employees, both injuries and fatalities will only increase. The variety of hazards construction workers face at their workplace is shared by few other occupations. Workers are already at greater risk than any other industry to suffer a disabling injury due to falls, equipment malfunctions, and pinch point crush injuries. However, lead poisoning and respiratory problems also affect these workers. From 2002 to 2008 construction workers made up 15% of all cases reporting lead blood levels exceeding 25 ug/dl. And in regards to dangerous levels of exposure to asbestos, construction workers are at the greatest risk of all occupations. Over 1.3 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos on the job each year.
Unfortunately, the mental toll this industry demands from its workers is often overlooked as a major hazard. Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that construction workers are frequently stressed about work-related injuries and pain and often fail to seek help, putting themselves at risk for more injuries and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Because the construction industry employs over 11 million people in the US, this data suggests that a large portion of our workforce is not getting the support they desperately need. Essentially, the mental burden brought on by a workplace injury is too much for many construction workers. Another 2012 study of over 350,000 construction workers found that injured workers were 45% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than non-injured workers.
To combat their mental and physical suffering, it is paramount that the workers have treatment options, and more importantly, are made aware of them. It is critical that an injured worker understand he or she may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover their lost wages and medical bills. In cases where a third party is involved, the injured workers may also be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional. In conclusion, it is important that more people are educated about the risks and dangers of the construction industry so that we can prevent both harm to the workers through a commitment to safer practices and better treatment.