Analysis shows construction deaths slowing in U.S.

Construction fatalities declined by nearly 10 percent between 2009 and 2010 and by almost 40 percent during the past five years, according to an analysis of new federal data released Thursday by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials pointed to an industrywide commitment to improving workplace safety as a key factor.

From a training aspect, the construction industry has made safety a top priority, providing workers with information they need to recognize hazards on the job site, said Kevin Cannon, AGC’s director of safety and health services.

The new data show those efforts are helping save lives.

"Some of our members conduct daily toolbox talks on the job," Cannon said Thursday from his office in Washington, D.C. "They take a few minutes at the beginning of the shift and gather the crew and deliver information to keep them safe. It can be about electrical, falls, ladder safety."

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 751 construction fatalities in 2010, down from 834 in 2009 and from 1,239 in 2006.

Falls accounted for 260 construction deaths in 2010, a 42 percent decline from 447 in 2007.

Cannon cited AGC training for construction workers in fall protection measures, taking a break Thursday from a workshop on falls to speak to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Second on the list at 112 were deaths from being hit by equipment, followed by deaths from contact with electricity (76) and deaths from being caught between objects, typically trenching, 39, Cannon said.

The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated 25 workplace deaths from January 2008 through June 2009, including six deaths at the massive CityCenter project, prompting federal oversight by OSHA.

The number of construction deaths declined faster than total construction spending during the past five years, AGC spokesman Brian Turmail said. Construction spending declined by 31 percent between 2006 and 2010, while fatalities declined by nearly 40 percent.

The construction industry has moved to improve workplace safety in the past two decades, Turmail said. Safety planning is now an essential part of all preconstruction plans. Construction workers also undergo rigorous and ongoing classroom and on-site safety training.

Many companies regularly participate in "safety stand-downs," stopping all work for a day of intense safety training and drills, Cannon said.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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