Article

November 2013

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

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Table 5. Fatal occupational injuries incurred by workers at road construction sites involved in a transportation incident other than being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment, 2003–2010
Event(1)Fatal occupational injuries

Total

128

Overturn

50

Steam roller, road paver

22

Bulldozer

6

Loader

4

Grader, leveller, planer, scraper

3

Dump truck

3

Fall from vehicle or mobile equipment

32

Grader, leveller, planer, scraper

5

Bulldozer

3

Pickup truck

4

Collision (decedent operating vehicle or mobile equipment below)

37

Pickup truck

9

Steam roller, road paver

4

Bucket or basket hoist—truck mounted

4

Grader, leveller, planer, scraper

4

Automobile

3

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.

Other notable incidents having to do with transportation-related deaths incurred by workers who were working at a road construction site include the following:

  • Five workers were killed when the bucket truck they were in was struck by another vehicle. In each case, the worker fell from the bucket truck.
  • Five workers were killed when they fell from a truck as they were setting up or removing traffic control devices such as signs and cones.
  • Three workers were killed when the mobile equipment being used by the worker was struck by a train.

In 51 cases, a worker at a road construction site was fatally injured after being struck by a falling object. Workers were struck by a tree seven times; by structural metal materials six times; and by pipes, ducts, and tubing four times. In nine cases, the worker was struck by a falling object that fell from or was put in motion by a crane. In six cases, an object fell from or was put in motion by a backhoe.

Twenty-one workers were killed when a vehicle or mobile equipment that was not in normal operation struck them.14 In nine cases, the vehicle or mobile equipment rolled or slid down a decline. Trench collapses were the cause of 20 worker deaths at road construction sites from 2003 to 2010.

Falls to lower level accounted for 45 deaths among workers at road construction sites. In 8 cases, it was noted that the worker was not wearing or had removed fall protection equipment. In 6 other cases, the worker was employing fall protection equipment but failed to tie off to a safety line. Of the 14 cases in which fall protection was either not in place or not correctly used, all occurred at bridge or overpass construction sites.

Almost three-quarters (37) of the 45 fatal falls involved workers at a bridge or overpass construction site. In 35 cases, the height of fall was noted; the median height from which a worker fell was 39 feet.

A total of 39 workers died from contact with electric current while working at a road construction site. Most (35) of these deaths involved contact with overhead power lines. In 26 of the cases involving contact with power lines, the worker contacted the lines indirectly; that is, another object became electrified when it came in contact with the power lines and subsequently electrocuted the worker. (See table 6.)

Table 6. Fatal occupational injuries incurred by workers at road construction sites from indirect contact with power lines, 2003–2010
Object that contacted power lines(1)Fatal occupational injuries

Total

26

Crane—mobile, truck, rail-mounted

5

Bucket or basket hoist—truck mounted

5

Pile driver, tamping machinery

3

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.

SEVERAL DIFFERENT ELEMENTS outlined in the MUTCD correspond closely to the most frequent fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites. The category “Workers being struck by construction equipment” is a hazard stressed in section 6D.03: “TTC zones present temporary and constantly changing conditions that are unexpected by the road user. This creates an even higher degree of vulnerability for workers on or near the roadway.”15 The large number of collisions involving vehicles or mobile equipment in which one vehicle is stopped indicates that particular attention should be given to sections 6C.04, “Advance warning area,” and 6C.05, “Transition area,” which outline the procedures for alerting drivers approaching the road construction site. Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites will continue to be a focus of safety organizations in outreach to workers and drivers alike.


Notes

14 Normal operation is when the vehicle or mobile equipment is being operated by someone for a transportation purpose. Examples of vehicles or mobile equipment not in normal operation are a truck that slips into gear with no one at the wheel, a bulldozer that stalls and slides down a hill, and a front end loader with the parking brake not engaged and that rolls down a decline.

15 See Manual on uniform traffic control devices for streets and highways, p. 564.

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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.