According to a report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 77 workers were killed in 2017, a 5 percent decrease from 81 deaths in 2016. Roberta Smith, an occupational health program manager with the department, said the majority of deaths were related to transportation, or driving on the job.
“Even driving perhaps to the local hardware store and if they were unfortunately killed in that process, it would count as a workplace fatality,” she said.
While the number for overall worker fatalities has decreased, 2017 saw a 58 percent increase in deaths among construction workers. Smith said these were mainly roadway accidents, but also fatal slips and falls.
Data collected by The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t draw any correlations, but Smith suggests Colorado’s construction boom is a likely contributor.
“The increase in the activity is certainly a factor, [because] we have more people working on the job,” she said.
Construction permits for single-family homes have increased by 250 percent since 2009, according to a 2019 economic impact report by the University of Colorado Boulder. Much of that construction takes place along Colorado’s Front Range corridor, from Colorado Springs north to Wyoming.
In Colorado, the rate of new construction is slightly higher than the national average and is expected to continue growing in 2019, even as costs rise and labor becomes scarcer.
On Jan. 3, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited local construction company ContractOne Inc. for safety violations at a residential build site where workers installed water lines.
According to a statement by OSHA, the company “failed to conduct regular site inspections to correct potentially hazardous conditions.” This led to the death of a worker and the company faces fines of up to $57,463.
Smith said data collected on worker deaths does not specify the exact cause of the accident.