Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites

By Pegula, Stephen | Monthly Labor Review, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites


Pegula, Stephen, Monthly Labor Review


During the 1995 to 2002 period, 844 workers were killed while working at a road construction site. (1) More than half of these fatalities were attributable to a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment. The range of these fatal occupational injuries was a low of 93 in 1996 and a high of 124 in 1999, as shown below:

1995    94
1996    93
1997    94
1998    113
1999    124
2000    106
2001    118
2002    102

Fatal workplace injuries at road construction sites were first identified as a separate category in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) in 1995. Since that time, overall workplace fatalities have generally declined, but fatalities at road construction sites have fluctuated, staying in the low 100's since 1998. Workplace fatalities that occur at a road construction site typically account for 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent of all workplace fatalities annually.

A number of safety measures exist for road construction sites. For instance, the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides guidance ranging from the types of signs to use at a road construction site to the proper use of rumble strips. (2) In addition, the Federal Highway Administration offers tips for motorists on traveling safely through road construction sites. (3) As fatal work injuries at road construction sites continue to account annually for a large number of fatal occupational injuries, it becomes even more important to determine the types of workers involved in road construction site fatalities and the events that precipitate the fatalities. (4)

What is a road construction site?

There are various definitions of what constitutes a road construction site. According to the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, a road construction site includes, "... road construction workers and vehicle occupants fatally injured in work zones. Work zones include construction, maintenance, and utility work on a road, street, or highway." The Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices gives this definition, "A work zone is an area of a highway with construction, maintenance, or utility work activities. A work zone is typically marked by signs, channelizing devices, barriers, pavement markings, and/or work vehicles. It extends from the first warning sign or high-intensity rotating, flashing, oscillating, or strobe lights on a vehicle to the END ROAD WORK sign or the last TTC [temporary traffic control] device." (5)

In this report, only fatal work injuries that occurred at road construction sites as defined by CFOI are included in the analysis. Fatal work injuries at road construction sites were identified in two ways. First, all occupational fatalities that were coded as having occurred at a road construction site were included. (6) Next, the remaining CFOI record set was searched for key variables that might indicate that a fatal work injury did indeed occur at a road construction site, but was not coded as such. These variables include:

* Keywords. Records with narratives containing variations on the following words were examined-zone, construction site, worksite, pedestrian, road construction, road site, flag, cone, road crew, highway construction, street construction, barrel, manhole, road repair, painting line, pothole, and sewer.

* Industry. All records in which the decedent was employed in Standard Industrial Classification (sic) 1611--Highway and Street Construction; or sic 1622Bridge, Tunnel, and Elevated Highway Construction; and where the fatality occurred on a roadway were examined.

* Occupation. All records in which the decedent was employed, per the U.S. Census Bureau Occupation Codes, as a construction laborer (869), operating engineer (844), or paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operator (594), and where the fatality occurred on a roadway were examined. …

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