Construction injury rates may exceed national estimates: evidence from the construction of Denver International Airport

Am J Ind Med. 1998 Aug;34(2):105-12. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199808)34:2<105::aid-ajim2>;2-w.


Background: Construction of Denver International Airport (DIA) provided a unique opportunity to describe the magnitude of injury on a major construction project for which complete data on injury and hours at risk were available for over 32,000 employees working 31 million hours.

Methods: Comprehensive payroll data for all workers, who were paid standard Davis-Bacon wages, allowed calculation of person-hours at risk by job classification. Complete reporting, facilitated by a single workers' compensation plan covering all contracts and by an on-site medical clinic and designated provider system, allowed us to determine both total and lost-work-time (LWT) injury rate per 200,000 hours at risk by industrial sector, company size, and year of construction. Workers' compensation payment rates were calculated and compared with expected loss rates, derived by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, by sector, company size, and year.

Results: DIA's overall total injury rates were over twice those published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the construction industry for each year of DIA construction. Differences in LWT injury rates were more modest. Total injury rates were also at least twice BLS's rates for all contractor sizes. The injury rate pattern by company size at DIA differed from BLS's in that small firms had injury rates that were lower than or comparable to most other size categories; BLS's rates for small firms were lower than those for all but the very largest (250 or more employees) contractors. DIA's total workers' compensation (WC) payment rate of $7.06 per $100 payroll was only 11% higher than Colorado-specific expected loss rates reported by the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

Discussion: Complete reporting, facilitated by the existence of a single WC plan, an on-sites medical clinic, and designated medical providers, yielded injury rates significantly higher than previously reported. The relatively small difference between DIA payment rates significantly higher than previously that the discrepancy between DIA's injury rates and national estimates is due to underreporting of non-LWT injuries of the BLS. The burden of on-site work-related construction injury may be higher and more costly than has been evident from national data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / mortality
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aircraft
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Facility Design and Construction
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Workers' Compensation / economics*