UT Center Analyzes Fatal Construction Accidents

KNOXVILLE — The vast majority of construction accidents investigated nationwide by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2004 claimed only one life. Most resulted from falls, and the greatest number occurred on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center, a unit of the University of Tennessee’s College of Business, recently analyzed OSHA investigation reports of 785 fatal construction accidents, which resulted in 806 deaths, in 2004. The analysis — which is used by government and industry to improve on-the-job safety — looked at the types of construction accidents that occurred, when they happened, who was to blame and what victims were doing when the accidents occurred.

The study was performed by Dr. William R. Schriver, research director of CIRPC; Thomas E. Cressler,
associate director; and Dr. James E. Beavers, director.

Types of accidents
The vast majority of construction accidents that occurred in 2004 involved a single victim. One person died in 768, or 97.8 percent of the accidents. The 17 multi-victim accidents accounted for 38 fatalities.
CIRPC also determined five of causes accounted for 345, or 43.9 percent, of the accidents:
– Falling from or through roofs, 108 accidents, or 13.8 percent of the total;
– Being crushed or run over by construction equipment, 75 accidents, or 9.6 percent of the total;
– Falling from or with structures, 63 accidents, or 8 percent of the total;
– Lifting accidents, 51 accidents, or 6.5 percent of the total;
– Being electrocuted while installing equipment or using tools, 48 accidents, or 6.1 percent of the total.
The causes of construction accidents vary little from year to year based on studies of OSHA investigations dating back to 1991, the study notes.

Most dangerous times, days
A look at the 785 construction accidents showed that 160, or 20.4 percent, occurred on Tuesdays. Mondays were almost as bad, with 152, or 19.4 percent, happening then.
Most of the accidents, 111, or 14.1 percent, occurred between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Ninety-one of the accidents, or 11.6 percent, occurred between 11 a.m. and noon.

Who was at fault?
CIPRC’s analysis shows that in 429, or 54.6 percent of the fatal accidents, the victim did something that caused the incident. In 212 of the accidents, or 27 percent, the victim was judged to be simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; in 107 of the accidents, or 13.6 percent, another employee did something to cause the accident; and in the remaining 37 accidents, or 4.7 percent, the cause couldn’t be classified.

Victims’ activities
CIRPC’s analysis also looked at what victims were doing when the accidents occurred.
The study shows that in 578, or 73.6 percent of the accidents, the victims were working on the job when the accident occurred. In 114, or 14.5 percent of the accidents, the victims were moving between work stations; in 21, or 2.7 percent of the accidents, the victims were entering, leaving or away from their job site when they were killed; and in 72, or 9.2 percent, of the accidents, no classification was possible.

CIRPC was created in 2001. Its predecessor, Construction Resources Analysis, was started in 1975 as part of a federal effort to obtain more accurate information about the construction industry in order to enhance the operation of various government programs concerned with construction. The agency’s analysis work is funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
For more information about CIRPC, see http://bus.utk.edu/cirpc/

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Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
William R. Schriver, (865) 974-4955, schriver@utk.edu