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Missouri construction workers face hazards

Missouri construction workers build our homes, roads, job sites and offices while also repairing and maintaining our state's underlying infrastructure. The work can be hazardous and expose workers to dangerous conditions such as extreme temperatures, overwhelming noise, dizzying heights and deep excavation pits.

Despite choosing a field that is often fraught with danger, construction workers still have employee rights that guarantee them a safe working environment to ply their trade.

In 2009, construction workers in the private sector incurred the greatest number of fatalities of any other industry. However, this is actually a decline since its peak in 2006, which can probably be attributed to the economic conditions that reduced the yearly total for construction work hours.

The occupational injury fatality rate in 2009 for construction workers in private industry was almost three times greater than that of all workers across the country -- 9.7 per 100,000 employees. The construction industry also encompassed three of the 10 occupations that had the highest rate of fatalities: roofers, with 34.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers, structural steel and ironworkers with 30.3, and lastly, laborers with 18.3.

Even when the workers weren't killed on the job, they often suffered injuries or were exposed toxic substances that caused illnesses.

Falls were responsible for over one in five illnesses and injuries, coming in at 22 percent, according to statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor.

Respiratory diseases also took a toll on workers nationwide. During the 1990's, over 1,000 construction worker deaths listed the work-related disease pneumoconiosis on their death certificates.

The bottom line is that employers have the responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers on the job. Workers have the right to file workers' compensation claims and civil litigation in order to be compensated for their on-the-job injuries.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Construction Safety and Health" Aug. 29, 2014

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