Construction: Occupational Risks

construction worker, crane, architect

Input: Occupational Safety and Health Risks

In 2011 an estimated 9.0 million workers in building, heavy, and special trades construction were at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. In 2010, construction industry workers accounted for 7% of U.S. workers, and 17% of workplace fatalities. In addition to fatal injuries, workers in these industries are at risk of injury or illness due to ‘contact with objects’, falls to a lower or same level, overexertion, and excessive noise.

As described in the earlier “Sector Description” section, the U.S. construction industry is divided into three major subdivisions: building construction (NAICS 236), heavy and civil engineering construction (NAICS 237) and special trades construction (NAICS 238) construction. In 2011 there were an estimated 6.7 million paid public and private sector construction industry workers and an additional 2.4 million self-employed construction industry workers.

Source: Employment numbers, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Current Population Surveyexternal icon

Source: Fatal occupational injuries, BLS, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuriesexternal icon


In 2010 construction recorded 802 fatal work injuries, the highest total among any industry sector. Workers in the occupation of construction trade (as opposed to supervisors or helpers) accounted for 550 fatalities. More specifically, the three construction trade occupations with the highest number of fatalities were construction laborers (202), carpenters (57) and electricians (63).

Source: BLS, Census Occupational Injuries/Illnesses and Fatal Injuries Profilesexternal icon

Number of fatalities in the construction industry by selected events and exposures, 2010

Number of fatalities in the construction industry by selected events and exposures, 2010
Construction*† Number of selected events or exposures
Total Fatalities Transportation incidents Contact with objects/equipment Falls Exposures to harmful substances/environments
Construction 802 209 141 267 126
Construction of buildings 159 23 28 80 15
Heavy/civil engineering construction 175 91 32 16 23
Specialty trade contractors 447 89 79 164 86

* Totals include data for industries not shown separately.
† Based on the North American Industry Classification System, 2007.

Source: BLS, Census Occupational Injuries/Illnesses and Fatal Injuries Profilesexternal icon

Additional occupational fatality information can be found at the BLSexternal icon.

Nonfatal Injuries and Illnesses

According to the BLS annual survey of occupational injuries and illnesses, the incidence rate of injuries and illnesses in the construction private industry sector declined from 4.0 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2010 to 3.9 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2011. This is higher than the 2011 rate for all private industry of 3.5 per 100 full-time workers. The rate for injuries involving days away from work (DAFW) was 1.5 per 100 full-time workers. More specifically, construction industry subsector rates for all recordable injuries were:

  • Construction of buildings (NAICS 236): 3.6 per 100 full-time workers
  • Heavy and civil engineering construction (NAICS 237): 3.5 per 100 full-time workers
  • Specialty trade contractors (NAICS 238): 4.1 per 100 full-time workers

Contact with objects and equipment was the event with the highest rate of injuries resulting in DAFW in the construction industry (NAICS 236) at 0.5 per 100 full-time workers.

Source: BLS Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII)external icon

Detailed data on nonfatal injuries and illnesses can be found in the following websites:

BLS Industry incidence rates and countsexternal icon for injuries and illnesses

BLS Case and Demographic Characteristicsexternal icon for injuries involving DAFW

Occupational Injury and Illness References

NIOSH Worker Health eChartbook
The eChartbook is a descriptive epidemiologic reference on occupational morbidity and mortality in the United States. A web-based resource for agencies, organizations, employers, researchers, workers, and others who need to know about occupational injuries and illnesses, the eChartbook includes more than 8,000 figures and tables describing the magnitude, distribution, and trends of the nation’s occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

  • The eChartbook will continue to grow and develop to reflect the growing data and information needs of the NIOSH Program Portfolio
  • Construction industry data and statistics in the eChartbook:

BLS Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities Programexternal icon
The BLS publishes detailed information on occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities for all industry sectors.

Page last reviewed: October 23, 2018