Surprising Correlation Between Fatal and Nonfatal Workplace Injury Rates

A new RAND Corporation study found an unexpected link between the reported numbers of nonfatal and fatal injuries among construction workers. The findings show that states with low fatality rates seem to report higher numbers of nonfatal injuries. Conversely, states with higher rates of fatal injuries report lower numbers of nonfatal injuries.

The study compared fatal and nonfatal construction-site injury reports across all 50 states.

Researchers chose to focus on the construction industry because it typically accounts for more fatal work accidents than any other sector. This continues to be true despite the fact that the number of fatalities in the construction industry has decreased every year since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experts suggest this is due in part to the economic crisis, as the number of hours worked in the industry has declined each year since 2008.

In 2010, the construction industry suffered 802 fatal occupational injuries nationwide.

Possible Explanations

The states with low nonfatal injury rates and high fatality rates were primarily located in the South. Those states tended to have lower wages, less-extensive workers' compensation benefits and fewer unionized workplaces.

The states with high nonfatal injury rates and lower fatality rates were primarily in the West. Common characteristics among those states included higher wages and benefits, increased unionization and more workplace inspections.

"One key factor influencing injury trends seems to be the scope of benefits offered by a state's workers' compensation program," said John Mendeloff, a lead author of the study.

States with better workers' compensation benefits often had higher rates of reported nonfatal injuries, which might be explained by a greater motivation to report accidents when the injured could receive benefits.

Some states have separate Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement programs that can enforce state-specific regulations in addition to the federal laws.

Other factors that may have contributed to the results include differences in the roles of labor unions, levels of unemployment and wages, and the importance placed on government-regulation compliance.

The findings also imply that states with high fatality rates might be underreporting their rates of nonfatal injuries. Fatality rates are documented much more precisely than nonfatal accident rates. Researchers have suggested that higher rates of reported nonfatal injuries might actually signal more comprehensive worker safety programs.

Maryland Construction Accidents

As in the rest of the country, Maryland's construction sector suffers more fatalities than any other industry.

In 2010, there were 18 fatal occupational injuries in Maryland in the construction industry, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program.

Maryland is one of 22 states and jurisdictions that operates its own job safety and health program. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Program, or MOSH, adopted the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Standards and added some state-specific regulations.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, hiring a skilled workers' compensation attorney is an important step toward receiving the benefits to which you are entitled.

In addition, those who have lost a loved one in a construction accident should seek the advice of an experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer.