The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 31, 2014

State's construction fatalities up; injuries way up

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – Michigan continues to experience a relatively low rate of fatalities in the construction industry, but there was an unwelcome increase in 2013.

After a record-low of nine construction fatalities in 2012, 12 died on the job in 2013. Seven of those fatalities were caused by falls.

And, serious injury rates experienced a significant spike in fiscal year 2013.

“We’re really looking at falls, which caused the highest percentage of fatalities ever,” said Patty Meyer, director of MIOSHA’s Construction Safety and Health Division.

Causes of other fatalities in Michigan in 2013 included four “struck-by” and one “crushed.” Electrocutions are often at the top of the list of causes of fatal accidents, but there were zero in Michigan last year. Seven of the fatalities were in the commercial industry, five were in residential.

Our state is still experiencing historically low fatality rates, with 10 construction fatalities in 2011, and 11 in 2010. But as recently at 2006, there were 26 on-the-job construction fatalities in Michigan. In the 1960s, an average of 44 construction workers died on the job every year.

Meyer said 30 percent of Michigan’s construction fatalities over the past five years have been in residential, so MIOSHA will be ramping up inspections of residential projects by a similar 30 percent.

The Michigan DART Rate (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) measuring illness and injury on the job was among the best in the nation in fiscal year 2012, a terrific 1.5 per 100 full-time workers. In fiscal 2013, not so much – the rate jumped to 2.7.

Smaller and mid-size companies, Meyer said, are getting more attention from state construction safety inspectors. “We’re starting to focus on them because they might not have a lot of access to training, and as a result with them we more often find a higher level of noncompliance.”

Meyer said while smaller companies are getting more attention from construction safety inspectors, larger, established companies “are doing very well.” She said there are nine active MIOSHA/industry partnerships that contractors voluntarily enter into in order to make an enhanced commitment to safety. Used on larger projects, the contractors agree to things like substance abuse testing, pre-task analysis, daily “safety huddles” with subcontractors, and 100 percent commitment to fall protection and personal protective equipment.

“We have developed a lot of alliances with partners in the industry, with groups like the Laborers, the Operating Engineers, the AGC (Associated General Contractors-Michigan) and CAM (Construction Association of Michigan). “We have developed a number of initiatives, and the goal is the greater prevention of injuries and fatalities in the industry,” Meyer said.