Road Construction Injuries on the Rise

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 report, while overall occupational fatality rates have decreased, the number of roadside construction injuries and fatalities have increased over the last decade.

A road construction site can occur on a highway, street or bridge. It is generally defined as construction, maintenance or utility work that includes warning signs, barriers, flashing lights, and pavement markings.

While overall occupational fatality rates have gone down by 10% in the past decade, road construction fatality rates have risen and steadily account for at least 2% of all occupational deaths annually. Over the past several years, an average of 129 workers died in a road construction accident.

The vast majority of the victims are male (97%). In addition, Hispanics and Latinos account for an astonishing number of the fatalities (17%).

305 of the 639 road construction fatalities that occurred between 2003 to 2007 were due to workers being run over by vehicles. However, the vast majority of vehicle-related fatalities involved the worker being struck by his own company’s construction vehicle. This accounted for 38% of all fatalities. 101 of these fatalities occurred when a construction vehicle was backing up. 60 of these involved a dump truck. While most construction vehicles sound alarms when they are reversing in order to alert pedestrians, 25 of these trucks had malfunctioning or non-existent alarms.

Cars driven by passersby accounted for only 70 of the 639 vehicle cases. 61 workers were struck while flagging and directing cars through a construction zone. 10 were killed by drunk drivers.

Most of those who were struck and killed by vehicles while on the job were construction workers (33%). 12% were highway maintenance workers. 9% were construction supervisors and managers.

Another top killer of road construction workers was vehicle collisions. The most common form of vehicle collision involved the construction worker hitting a tractor trailer (89 out of 639 deaths). In addition, 40 workers were killed from an overturned vehicle.

The third most common form of fatality involved falling debris, such as items falling from a crane.

The fourth most common form of fatality involved construction falls. 24 of these 31 deaths occurred at bridge construction or maintenance sites.

Finally, the fifth most common form of construction fatality involved electrocution. 21 of these 23 deaths involved overhead power lines.

Strangely enough, the number of road construction deaths is heavily concentrated in Texas at 11% of all fatalities. New York does not make the top ten list.

The time of day and day of week for fatalities mirrored the normal work week – fatalities were evenly distributed among Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Road construction fatalities are also seasonal. 73% of all road fatalities occur between April and October. This is likely because most states such as New York will temporarily halt construction during the harsh winter months.

Only 14% of the construction workers killed were government-employed. The remainder worked for private highway, street or bridge construction companies. 66% of those killed were doing construction work. 8% of those killed were transporting items. 2% were doing engineering work. 2% were doing utilities work.

Because of the increased fatality rates for roadside construction workers, lawmakers have begun taking a closer look at roadside construction site safety. Many construction sites include signs that warn drivers of the harsh penalties they face to prevent speeding. These signs are to warn drivers to drive slowly and carefully through construction zones in order to prevent accidents. Some construction zones advertise a reduced speed limit in order to increase road worker safety.

Not only do passing drivers need to stay below the mandated speed limits or face increased fines, but the construction sites themselves are being scrutinized under the Labor Laws for safety reasons.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, call the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC today to discuss your potential claims.

Stephen Pegula, Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites, 2003-07, Monthly Labor Review, p. 37-40 (Nov. 2010).

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