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Study reveals interesting trends in construction sector

A recently published study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reveals some dramatic differences among the 50 states concerning the rate of nonfatal work injuries versus fatal work injuries in the construction sector.

Specifically, the study -- conducted by researchers from the RAND Corp. -- found the following: 1) states reporting higher fatality rates in the construction sector typically reported lower non-fatal injury rates and 2) states reporting lower fatality rates in the construction sector typically reported higher non-fatal injury rates.

Even more intriguing, the study determined that these trends seemed to be isolated to certain areas of the country, with southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas) reporting more work fatalities and fewer work injuries, and western states (Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington) reporting fewer work fatalities and more work injuries.

Here, researchers examined data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on construction injuries and fatalities from 2003 to 2005 and 2006 to 2008. The construction industry was selected for the simple reason that it has the highest number of fatalities among all work sectors.

Why then did states like California have such a lower rate of work fatalities and higher rate of non-fatal work injuries in the construction sector?

The authors theorize that these western states tend to have more generous work comp systems, which creates much more of an incentive for workers to report their injuries. In addition, they suggested that because these generous benefits can result in higher work comp premiums, employers have a greater incentive to implement safety programs to cut potential costs. This in turn leads to a lower fatality rate.

"We were surprised by the relationship between fatal and nonfatal injuries," said John Mendeloff, one of the primary authors of the study. "One key factor influencing injury trends seems to be the scope of benefits offered by a state's workers' compensation program, but that explains only part of what we found."

Indeed, the researchers also identified the presence of both state-run OSHA programs dedicated to carrying out workplace inspections and strong labor unions as possible reasons for this trend.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


EHS Today, "States with low nonfatal injury rates in the construction industry have high fatality rates," Sandy Smith, May 9, 2012

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