Article

November 2013

An analysis of fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites, 2003–2010

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Almost 70 percent of passing-through incidents were collisions involving either vehicles or mobile equipment going in the same direction or a vehicle or mobile equipment striking a stopped vehicle or mobile equipment. While 35 percent of all highway collisions involving vehicles or mobile equipment were attributable to these events from 2003 to 2010, they accounted for 89 percent of highway collisions between vehicles or mobile equipment at road construction sites. Twenty-nine deaths resulted from crashes that involved three or more vehicles or pieces of mobile equipment.

While accounting for 15 percent of all fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites, Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, and Arkansas accounted for 41 percent of fatal occupational injuries to truck drivers passing through road construction sites. (See table 3.)

Table 3. Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites, all workers and truck drivers passing through the work zone, 2003–2010
StateNumber (percent) of all road construction site fatal occupational injuriesNumber (percent) of truck drivers
Texas104 (11)5 (6)
Illinois50 (5)9 (11)
Pennsylvania49 (5)7 (8)
California41 (4)
Tennessee38 (4)8 (10)
Indiana32 (3)11 (13)
Colorado27 (3)5 (6)
Arkansas22 (2)6 (7)

Note: Data for all years are revised and final. Dashes indicate no data reported or data that do not meet publication criteria. CFOI fatality counts exclude illness-related deaths unless precipitated by an injury event.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with state, New York City, District of Columbia, and federal agencies, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Working onsite

Approximately seven out of every eight workers who incurred a fatal occupational injury at a road construction site were working at the site at the time. The largest single event that led to fatal occupational injuries for these workers was being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment. In the 8-year period from 2003 to 2010, 442 workers (53 percent) were killed at the site after being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment.

Workers are roughly as likely to be struck by construction- or maintenance-related equipment (dump trucks, bulldozers, graders, etc.) as by cars, vans, tractor-trailers, buses, and motorcycles. Workers were fatally struck 152 times by construction- or maintenance-related equipment and 153 times by the other vehicles.13

Vehicles or mobile equipment that was backing up posed a particular hazard. Of the 143 cases in which a worker was fatally struck by a backing vehicle or mobile equipment, 84 involved a dump truck striking the worker. (See table 4.) This statistic is particularly notable because section 6D.03, subpart D, of the MUTCD specifically identifies limiting backing-up maneuvers as a factor in minimizing worker risk.

Table 4. Fatal occupational injuries incurred by workers at road construction sites from being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment that is backing up, by type of vehicle or mobile equipment, 2003–2010
Vehicle or mobile equipment(1)Fatal occupational injuries

Total

143
Dump truck84
Truck (other than dump)29

Pickup

4

Semi, tractor trailer

8

Water

6

Cement

4
Grader, leveller, planer, scraper7
Steam roller, road paver6
Front end loader3
Street sweeping and cleaning machinery3

Notes:

(1) Based on the BLS Occupational Injury and Illness Classification Manual.

Note: Data for all years are revised and final. Totals for major categories may include subcategories not shown separately. CFOI fatality counts exclude illness-related deaths unless precipitated by an injury event.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with state, New York City, District of Columbia, and federal agencies, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Back-up alarms were noted in 39 cases in which the worker was struck by a backing vehicle or mobile equipment. Twenty-five workers were struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment with a functioning back-up alarm; in 17 cases, the vehicle was a dump truck. Of the 14 workers who were struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment without a back-up alarm or with a nonfunctioning back-up alarm, 11 were struck by a dump truck.

Workers were flagging or performing other traffic control duties in 92 cases. Of these workers, 20 were noted as wearing reflective or brightly colored clothing, such as vests, to increase visibility. Only 32 of the workers were employed as flaggers; the other 60 worked in other occupations, such as construction laborers (23), highway maintenance workers (9), and operating engineers (7).

Sixteen workers were killed by a drunk driver. Six of these cases occurred on a Friday or Saturday, and five of the six occurred in the early morning hours.

Transportation incidents other than a worker struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment accounted for 128 deaths. (See table 5.)

Notes

13 Based on the Occupational injury and illness classification manual, construction- or maintenance-related equipment is defined as anything falling into the 32* source series, ”construction, logging, and mining machinery,” as well as source 8252, dump trucks. For the full manual used for 1992–2010 data, see Occupational injury and illness classification manual (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2007), http://www.bls.gov/iif/oiics_manual_2007.pdf.

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About the Author

Stephen M. Pegula
pegula.stephen@bls.gov

Steve Pegula is an economist in the Office of Safety, Health, and Working Conditions, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.