Fatal accidents in the construction industry have not improved over the past decade, “raising important questions about the effectiveness of OSHA and what it would take to save more lives,” according to an analysis by Construction Dive.
Workers died at the same rate—10 out of every 100,000 workers—between 2011 and 2020, “highlighting weak enforcement, meager inspections and fines, and the opioid epidemic,” according to Construction Dive.
Three in five workers who died on the job fell victim to the same causes, known as the Fatal Four—falls, electrocutions, “struck-bys,” and “caught-in/betweens.” The latter two cover a range of hazards such as when a vehicle, piece of machinery, or material strikes or traps a worker.
OSHA says it focuses much effort on education around the Fatal Four, but the share of workers dying from those well-known hazards remained about the same from 2011 to 2020 while the workforce grew 31%. To become a “feared enforcer,” OSHA would need to increase inspections exponentially, enforce fines more strictly, wield more enforcement tools, and expand preventative consultations, according to safety experts.
The agency may lack money and staff to significantly reduce construction deaths. With last year’s staff levels, it would have taken inspectors 236 years to visit every workplace in the U.S.