One of the few positive things about the housing downturn has been fewer jobsite deaths. That trend continued in 2010, based on preliminary data on fatal occupational injuries the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released last week.

The Bureau estimates that fatal injuries related to private-sector construction declined by 10% in 2010 from 2009, to 751, of which 430 fatalities were among specialty trades.

Builder took a closer look at these data and found that fatalities in the residential construction sector specifically, which represent only a small portion of the total deaths for all construction, have been falling consistently since the housing downturn first reared its head in 2006.

The highest fatality rate continues to be among residential roofers, plumbers, and electricians, with falls and exposure to harmful substances being the main causes of death.

Occupational Fatalities
2010 2009 2008 2007
Res. Construction
Single-Family 33 36 40 53
Multifamily 4 7 10 11
Remodeling 36 37 34 36
Specialty Trades
Framers 4 3 5 11
Masons 5 6 8 9
Roofers 14 21 22 22
Electricians 9 7 5 7
Plumbers/HVAC 11 16 9 16
Finish carpenters 5 6 -- 7
Drywall 3 5 6 10
Other 5 5 5 5


On the whole, there were 4,547 workplace deaths in the U.S. in 2010, four fewer than the year before, according to BLS estimates. That works out to 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. However, workplaces can still be dangerous. There was a 65% increase in the number of occupational deaths caused by fires and explosions. Work-related fatalities resulting from fires alone more than doubled from 53 in 2009 to 109 in 2010, the highest count since 2003.

Fatal work injuries in all occupations among non-Hispanic black or African-American workers declined by 9% in 2010, while fatalities among non-Hispanic white workers were higher by 2%. Fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers were down 4% in 2010.

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.