Construction site safety: Case United States

Jaana Koota

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Attention to occupational health and safety in the construction companies has increased in the United States over the past decades. The 1990s is called the "decade for construction safety". The high number of fatal accidents and injuries has led to the greater emphasis on safety. Although construction work has become safer during the years, there is still need for further improvements to reduce the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries in the industry. The construction industry in the United States employs about 5% of entire industrial workforce. However, the construction sector has generally accounted for nearly 20% of all industrial worker deaths. According the statistics, 18% of work-related deaths and 15% of all workers' compensation cases occur in the construction industry. Approximately 1000 construction workers are killed each year. Accidents in the construction industry alone cost over $17 million annually (1993). Falls are the most common source of construction worker fatalities. After falls, the most common cause of fatalities was being struck. Incidents in which a worker was caught in or between objects were the third most common cause of construction worker fatalities. Electrical shock was the fourth most common cause of fatalities. Of all fatalities, 11% are the result of contacts with overhead power lines. Construction Industry Institute (CII) has an on-going research group, "Making Zero Accident a Reality", whose purpose is to develop a communication and education component to assist in understanding and implementation of best practices that support a Zero Accident culture. CII studies indicate that use of the Safety Best Practices may also contribute to improved cost and schedule performance. Contractors can expect to save more than $500 000 on the typical $50 million heavy industrial project and get schedule reductions from 6 to more than 9 weeks by making full use of the Safety Best Practices. Drug and alcohol testing is one part of Safety Best Practices, but it is a controversial topic in which the rights of workers to privacy and freedom of choice in their private behavior are pitted against the rights of the company and its workers rights to have a safe and productive workplace. Drug testing is shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of injuries. It is a common means of addressing safety, especially on large projects or in large construction companies. Many companies in the construction industry have made studies in accident prevention. Over the last twenty years the construction death rate has been reduced about 40% by the industry in general. Certain groups of companies have reduced the death rate even up to 60%. There are many companies in the United States, especially in the petrochemical construction industry, that have made significant progress in reaching near zero accident rates. OSHA Standards are focused on general industry, maritime, agriculture and construction. In general, the greatest emphasis is placed on the general industry standards. The construction industry must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for the Construction Industry (29, CFR Part 1926) and the code for the General Industry (29, CFR Part 1910). All employers and employees in the construction sector are required to comply with these standards. Determining whether a contractor/subcontractor can perform a job safely is difficult. Safety performance measures are used primarily to compare different units or groups of individuals and also to compare one unit or group of individuals over time. There are two different types of measures presently in use: OSHA reportable injury incidence rates and experience modification ratings (EMR).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages45
ISBN (Electronic)951-38-5932-0
ISBN (Print)951-38-5931-2
Publication statusPublished - 2001
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Publication series

SeriesVTT Tiedotteita - Meddelanden - Research Notes


  • construction
  • occupational safety
  • accidents
  • injuries
  • accident prevention
  • costs
  • management
  • legislation
  • safety standards
  • USA


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