Fatalities in the Construction Industry: A Timeline


The construction work sector is one of the most dangerous among all occupations. According to OSHA, around 20 percent—1,061—worker fatalities took place in the construction industry in 2019, representing one in five workers. 

Fortunately, thanks to industrial and technological breakthroughs, construction safety continues to be a growing priority for industry and government agencies. To grasp the enormity of construction fatalities across the centuries, it’s vital to understand the factors and work conditions across history as it relates to improvements in safety products and practices. Here’s an overview that includes a timeline from the law firm of DiMarco, Aruajo and Montevideo.  

Construction Fatalities Timeline 

1817-1825, Erie Canal 

Widely regarded as one of the first fatal construction series of incidents in American history, the Erie Canal took the lives of 1,000 out of 50,000 workers over an eight-year period through a series of safety and environmental hazards—many of which could have been avoided.  

1883, Brookyln Bridge 

Of the 600 workers employed to build this iconic bridge, 30 died mostly from falls, falling debris and equipment malfunction. 

1937, Golden Gate Bridge 

Although one of the largest bridge projects of its time, the Golden Gate Bridge saw fewer fatalities with 11 deaths—10 of which happened in a single accident involving the destruction of a work platform. The contractors required hard hats and deployed safety netting, a sign of an increasing awareness for the need of construction safety equipment.  

2009-City Center Las Vegas 

Known as one of the largest privately financed construction projects ever in the U.S., the Las Vegas CityCenter—a development that comprised 76 acres and six hotel towers—was completed in three years. Of the 8,000 workers, six died over the project’s run—two from falls and four from fatal injuries after being struck or crushed by materials.  

Construction Safety Solutions 

While construction fatalities will likely never be eradicated, site managers can take proactive steps to see the statistics begin to decrease. Beyond training programs and managerial awareness, companies can benefit from a safety audit to consider the deployment of key construction safety solutions. With a solid reputation for quality and service, Checkers® is doing its part to mitigate construction fatalities through asset and worker safety solutions:  

Cable and Hose Protectors  

Above ground cable protection ramps and covers guard cables against wear and tear from pedestrian and vehicle traffic while also keeping workers from getting their feet tangled, reducing potential fall hazards. Solutions such as the 5-Channel Heavy-Duty Yellow Jacket® cable protector with a hinged lid provides a safe crossing in high volume traffic areas while protecting valuable electrical cables and hose lines from damage. The heavy-duty modular interlocking design is ideal for use in industrial, commercial and public applications.  

Constructed of all-weather polyurethane and a patented 5-bar tread surface, the Checkers Safety™ 5-Channel General-Purpose Guard Dog® ADA cable protectors are equipped with built-in accessibility ramps for added safety, providing safe passage for both vehicle and foot traffic without the need for separate connectors. Featuring a modular, interlocking design available in lightweight 18'' sections, the Guard Dog features a reinforced hinged lid allows for easy cable placement. A recessed carrying handle on the protector's underside makes transportation easy.  

Wheel Chocks 

Chocking (or blocking) prevents construction vehicles from rolling or overturning while employees are working around the vehicle—loading, unloading, etc. Checkers Safety offers a variety of wheel chocks engineered in collaboration with safety experts to work with ground equipment, commercial and military vehicles. In addition, Checkers Safety chocks have been field-tested by expert team members under a variety of conditions to prevent non-motorized, uncontrolled movement of on and off-road vehicles.  

Our UC1500 General-Purpose utility wheel chocks are manufactured with highly durable, lightweight polyurethane and are third-party tested, certified and trusted by fleets globally. Ideal for use with over-the-road trucks, trailers, pickups and utility vehicles, the UC1500 is rated for vehicles with tire sizes up to 35 in. (88.9 cm) diameter, and gross vehicle operating weight up to 60,000 lbs. (27,273 kg) for the UC1500-4.5, and up to 70,000 lbs. (31,818 kg) for the UC1500-6. 

Ground Protection 

Providing proper temporary access and ground protection to construction sites—from vehicle passage matting to outrigger crane padding—further enhances an environment of safety for any construction site. The AlturnaMAT® Ground Protection Mat boasts an aggressive diamond plate tread design and a high load capacity ideal for use over soft or sensitive ground conditions in the construction, civil engineering, groundwork, and events industries. These rugged mats are made of 0.5in. (12.7 mm) thick polyethylene making them virtually indestructible and can withstand loads of up to 120 tons. 

As technology affords the construction industry more and better options to enhance site safety, putting your trust in an industry leader with decades of experience will remain vital. For a complete consultation of your site-safety needs, contact a trained professional at Checkers Safety today.