The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 17, 2012

Low trend for Michigan’s construction fatality, injury rates

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – The trend of lower construction workplace fatalities in Michigan seems to be taking hold.

MIOSHA recorded 10 construction industry fatalities in our state in 2011 – an historic low that was matched in 2009. In 2010, there were 11 fatalities.

“It’s true, the fatality rates have been trending lower in recent years,” said Patty Meyer, director of MIOSHA’s Construction Safety and Health Division. “We think one of the big reasons is that we have a highly trained workforce, and a commitment from contractors and owners to have a safe workplace. Plus, MIOSHA has its own Construction Safety and Health Division, and we think our educational and training programs are helping the industry.”

Meyer also said “you certainly have to consider” the lower rate of construction activity in Michigan during the Great Recession as another factor in the lower fatality rates.

As recently as 2006 there were 26 construction industry fatalities in Michigan. That number dropped to 11 fatalities in 2007 and rose to 15 in 2008. In the pre-MIOSHA 1960s, an average of 44 Michigan construction workers were killed on the job every year.

Year after year, the cause of construction fatalities rarely changes much, and last year was in line with history. In 2011 falls and electrocutions (three each) were the leading causes of worker deaths.  They were followed by “caught by” (two), and “struck by” (one).

There’s also good news on the construction injury front. The state’s DART – or Days Away Restricted or Transferred – dropped 33 percent in 2011 to 2.0 per 200,000 work-hours. By contrast, in 2000 the state’s DART rate was 4.7. Meyer said Michigan’s injury/illness rate for construction workers was fourth lowest in the nation in 2011.

She said the Construction Safety and Health Division attempts to tailor training and resources to areas that are causing the most injuries and fatalities. For example, she said two of the fatal electrocutions took place in low voltage situations. And a non-fatal  arc flash sent five workers to the hospital with burns.

And in the category of falls, ladder safety is being more closely watched. “Those are the kinds of things that are on our radar,” Meyer said.

Meyer also praised the work of labor-management groups like MUST and the MIOSHA’s own Training Institute for making safety a priority.

“The slow work situation can skew the numbers a bit, but credit the industry for trying to do the right things,” she said. “We want to see those rates fall in the future, and I think we’re on target.”