In September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) Summary. There were 4,609 fatal work injuries in 2011, down slightly from 4,690 in 2010. The overall fatality rate dropped to 3.5 per 100,000 workers. Fatalities were lower in a number of major industry sectors.

Construction posted one of the largest declines, dropping by almost 7% from 774 in 2010 to 721 in 2011. This marks the fifth consecutive year of improvement. Since 2006, construction sector fatalities are down nearly 42%. The fatality rate also lowered from 9.8 per 100,000 to 8.9 per 100,000. While the industry has made significant progress in safety and injury prevention, the housing crisis and the recession are probably responsible for much of the decline.

Despite the improving trend, construction still had the second most fatalities of any industry. Only transportation and warehousing had more, and not by much. Slips and falls were the leading cause of death on construction sites. 254 (35%) of construction fatalities occurred as a result of falls, compared to 14% across all industries combined. The CFOI divides the construction industry into several segments and contractor subgroups. Predictably, roofers had the most fatal falls, followed by painters, masonry contractors, and electricians. One in four fatal falls was from a height of 10 feet or less.