The federal government’s statistics for workplace safety in the roofing supplier industry showed a mixed bag of positive and negative statistics for 2021, with fatalities increasing over the previous year despite a drop in nonfatal accidents. 

In its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated the number of work-related fatalities occurring in the “lumber and other construction materials merchant wholesalers” category totaled 13 in 2021, up from eight the year before, a whopping 63% increase. Details leading to the causes of death were not included in the report.

This upward trend mirrors overall numbers in all industries tracked by the bureau, with 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in 2021, representing a 9% increase from the previous year. Within the ´21 statistics, workers between the ages of 45 and 54 saw the most significant year-over-year increase in workplace deaths, with a rise of 13.9%.

The report also highlighted that workers of color, including African-Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, were more likely to suffer a workplace fatality than the population overall; in 2021, the overall worker fatality rate was 3.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. The report noted that transportation incidents were the leading cause of fatalities within both subgroups.

Although fatalities trended upward in the distribution industry last year, the news was not all bad as injuries and illnesses saw a marked decrease in 2021, with the total recordable cases of injuries/illnesses in the “lumber and other construction materials merchant wholesalers” category pegged at 8,200. While seemingly high, it represents a more than 10% decrease over the same period a year earlier, equating to 3.4 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. The steepest decline was in the “injury” category, where reported injuries dropped by 11.2%, totaling 7,900 cases.

The upside of decreasing injuries was borne out in numbers showing a decline in cases requiring workers to take days away from work. These cases were reported at 3,300, down 17.5% from 2020. Similarly, workers requiring a transfer or job restriction because of injury dropped by 20.6 percent year-over-year to 2,300 in 2021. 

Conversely, number of cases involving work-related illnesses increased in 2021 over the previous year. In 2021, there were 400 recordable cases of illness, a 33% increase from 2020 (300), equating to a rate of 15.1 cases per 10,000 FTE workers falling ill.

There was a startling jump in the number of respiratory illness cases, including COVID infections. Unsurprisingly, there was a massive increase of 200% in these types of cases as compared to 2020. The report indicated 300 cases of respiratory illnesses in 2021 versus just 100 a year earlier.

Overall Merchant Wholesaler Cases

Industries in the Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods subsector category experienced 92 fatal injuries in 2021, an increase of 14% from a year earlier. Of those 92 recorded fatalities, 28 were listed as transportation events. Data from 2020 recorded no fatal injuries due to transportation, but showed 11 deaths caused by violence and other injuries by persons or animals.

Nonfatal injuries/illnesses in 2021 totaled 60,300, near static from a year earlier with 60,400 cases recorded in 2020. Digging into the numbers further, 38% of workers reporting a nonfatal injury or illness required time off from their job in 2021, which remained unchanged from 2020. The number of cases involving transfers or restrictions decreased by 13% to 17,600 workers last year.

Private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2021, a decrease of 1.8% from 2020. The decline in injury and illness cases was fueled in part by illnesses dropping by 32.9% in 2021 compared to last year.

The rate of injury cases increased in 2021, with private industry employers reporting a rate of 2.3 cases per 100 FTE workers compared to 2.2 in 2020.