November 3, 2022

Report Characterizes Electrical Injuries, Citations in Construction

Nearly half of all work-related electrocutions in 2019 occurred in the construction industry even though construction workers comprised only seven percent of all workers in the United States, according to a new publication from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training (PDF). The publication characterizes fatal and nonfatal electrical injuries and related OSHA citations for the period 2011 through 2020.

The rate of fatal electrical injuries in construction dropped from 0.7 per 100,000 full-time workers in 2019 to 0.5 per 100,000 FTEs in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 54 fatal electrical injuries in 2020 was the lowest number recorded in the ten-year period beginning in 2011 and a significant drop from the high of 87 fatalities recorded in 2018. But even though electrical fatalities in construction dropped in 2020, the overall number of fatalities in the industry was 4.2 percent higher than in 2019, according to a CPWR publication released earlier this year (PDF).

Within the construction industry, 71 percent of fatal electrocutions from 2011 through 2020 occurred in the specialty trade contractors subsector. Workers in this subsector include contractors who work as carpenters, laborers, electricians, supervisors or managers of construction workers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of nonfatal electrical injuries in construction rose slightly from 440 in 2019 to 450 in 2020. The highest number of nonfatal electrical injuries during 2011–2020 was 790 in 2015.

In contrast to the number of electrical injuries, which fluctuated from year to year, the number of OSHA citations fell steadily from 2011 through 2020. In 2011 OSHA issued approximately 4,900 electrical citations comprising 6.5 percent of all construction industry citations. Only 1,300 electrical citations—about 2.7 percent of all citations in construction—were issued in 2020. Electrical penalty totals also fell steadily from $4.5 million in 2011 to $1.9 million in 2019 and 2020.

CPWR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the construction industry. Visit the CPWR website for research and training materials.