North Carolina Construction Injuries and the Problem of Underreporting

If someone gets hurt at work, there is supposed to a system in place to provide proper compensation. It's called workers' compensation, and it generally works pretty well to help injured people get back on their feet financially and get back to work.

For that system to work, however, there has to be accurate data. That's why it is troubling that a report from a trade group, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CCRT), found that data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may underreport injuries in the construction industry, particularly in small construction companies.

The results of the study highlight how dangerous construction work can be. Construction site accidents also can raise issues of third-party liability.

Report Findings

The authors of the report looked at 15 years of data from several sources, including the BLS's annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (COFI). The authors found that small construction companies and those who were self-employed were less likely to report on-the-job injuries.

The report's authors also found that Hispanic workers were less likely to report injuries at construction sites. Small construction companies employ about 45 percent Hispanic workers, but those workers reported only eight to 16 percent of their injuries. The 36 percent of white, non-Hispanic workers that small construction companies employ reported 21 to 25 percent of their injuries.

The report concluded that BLS data includes only about 25 percent of the injuries that Hispanic workers at small construction companies suffer. The study estimated that 42,000 injuries that cause employees to miss days of work go unreported each year overall.

Reasons for Data Discrepancies

The report's authors suggested a few reasons why BLS injury data is incomplete. The BLS changed recording methods in 1995 and 2001, which could contribute to the gaps. Also, BLS statistics do not include self-employed construction workers or federal construction workers, which make up about one-fourth of the county's construction workforce.

Third Party Liability

When workers suffer injuries at construction job sites, they may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, workers also need to be aware of the possibility that third parties were responsible for their injuries so that they can be fully compensated for their injuries.

Construction site managers have a duty to ensure that the workplace is safe for their employees, but sometimes subcontractors are negligent and cause accidents that result in injury. Construction workers injured by a subcontractor's negligence may need to pursue compensation from the subcontractor for their losses in addition to their workers' compensation benefits.

Construction is difficult work and can be very dangerous. If you have been injured while working construction, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can discuss your situation with you and help pursue just compensation for your injuries.