All forms of construction play a big role in both society and the economy. In fact, the U.S. paving industry brought in $36 billion last year alone. But despite the important work that is done in the construction industry, construction workers still face a higher risk of injury or death than other professions. And according to a new study based in Australia, those in the construction and transportation industries face a high risk of traumatic spinal injuries.
Researchers at the University of Sydney looked at 824 hospital admissions between 2013 and 2016. All of the hospital admissions were linked to work-related spinal injuries. And of all of the injuries, half of them occurred in the construction industry. An additional 31% of the injuries were caused by vehicle crashes in the transportation industry.
According to Dr. Lisa Sharwood, lead author and University of Sydney injury epidemiologist, “This study demonstrates that the construction industry is still experiencing a high burden of work-related spinal trauma, particularly related to falls, despite safety measures being in place. Increased local surveillance of safety systems and stricter enforcement of relevant legislation is needed to reduce risks and fall-related injuries.”
Falls remain the number one cause of death in the construction industry worldwide. The study found that 78% of the spinal injuries sustained by construction workers were caused by falls. And while fall protection equipment and other safety measures have reduced injuries, the number of construction workers that sustain injuries each year is still high.
Fortunately, while the risk of injury remains high for construction workers, the rate and number of nonfatal construction injuries did decrease in 2017.
According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017 was the second year in a row that there was a decrease in nonfatal construction injuries and illnesses. In 2016, the number of nonfatal injuries was 203,500 and last year it decreased to 198,100. The rate of injuries also decreased from 3.2 per 100 workers in 2016 to 3.1 in 2017.
The data also breaks down the number of injuries and illness by categories within the construction industry. Land subdivision contractors, siding contractors, and oil and gas pipeline related structures contractors all showed the lowest number of recordable injuries, with 900, 1,200, and 1,300 injuries respectively.
So while the number of injuries seems to be decreasing, construction workers still face higher risks of injury. New technology and safety processes can continue to help construction workers have safe environments to work in and a decreasing risk of injury.