Fatal occupational injuries in the North Carolina construction industry, 1978-1994

Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2002 Jan;17(1):27-33. doi: 10.1080/104732202753306122.


Occupational injury is a major public health problem and the cause of high rates of fatalities. The construction industry is one of the leading industries for on-the-job fatalities. The North Carolina Medical Examiner's system was used to identify all fatal unintentional injuries that occurred on the job in the state's construction industry between 1978 and 1994. The populations at risk were estimated from the 1980 and 1990 U.S. censuses. There were 525 identified deaths. All except two decedents were male, and the majority were Caucasian (79.2%). The mean age of decedents was 39 years. Death rates were higher among older workers. The crude fatality rate for the overall study period was 15.4 per 100,000 worker-years, with higher rates found among African-Americans (22.9) than among Caucasians (14.5). Occupations within the industry with the highest rates were laborers (49.5), truck drivers (43.2), operating engineers (37.2), roofers (32.8), and electricians (29.0). Falls (26.7%), electrocutions (20.4%), and motor vehicle accidents (18.9%) were found to be the leading causes of death. These findings suggest a need for continued attention to the hazards of heights and electric currents and a need for occupational safety standards for motor vehicles. This study also suggests that the hazards facing construction laborers require further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / mortality*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electricity
  • Facility Design and Construction*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Racial Groups
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment