Roofing distributors and the construction materials wholesaler industry experienced an increase in workplace fatalities as well as cases of injuries and illness.

The disheartening news comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary,” which tracks fatal workplace injuries from the prior year. The report shows that, in the overall category of “Lumber and other construction materials merchant wholesalers" that roofing suppliers falls under, a total of 18 fatal injuries occurred in 2022. This is a 38.4% increase from last year’s number of 13, though not nearly as large of an increase as seen from 2020 to 2021 (63%).

Of those deaths, the data shows that three fatal injuries took place in the “roofing, siding and insulation material merchant wholesalers” category. The data does not specify the types of injuries that caused the fatalities, such as falls or transportation-related incidents.

In the broader category of “merchant wholesalers, durable goods,” which includes everything from automobile merchant wholesalers to roofing, brick, lumber and motor vehicle wholesalers, a total of 92 fatal injuries occurred in 2022, which is the same number of fatalities tracked in 2021.

Of those incidents, the event that caused the most (22) was contact with an object or equipment, followed by exposure to harmful substances or environments (14). Falls, slips and trips accounted for 11 fatalities, while violence or other injuries caused by a person or animal caused nine deaths. No data was provided for transportation incidents or fires and explosions.

Fatal Injuries Increase in Minorities

Fatal injury rates rose for Black or African American workers and Hispanic or Latino workers, which totaled 734 and 1,248, respectively, in 2022. These are 12.4% and 10.4% increases, respectively, over 2021’s totals.

For Hispanic and Latino workers, the 2022 total breaks down to 456 workplace deaths happening to “native-born” workers while 792 deaths occurred to “foreign-born” workers.

Transportation incidents claimed the highest number of fatalities within both groups, with 278 for Black or African American workers and 439 for Hispanic or Latino workers. The second highest cause to Black or African American workers was injuries due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals (199), while for Hispanic or Latino workers it was falls, slips, or trips (286).

Overall, a total of 5,486 workplace fatalities took place in 2022, a 5.7% increase from 5,190 in 2021. This equates to a fatal workplace injury rate of 3.7 fatalities per full-time equivalent workers, up from the previous year’s rate of 3.6.  

“In 2022, 5,486 workers in the U.S. lost their lives. This equates to one worker death every 96 minutes, with deaths the highest among transportation and construction workers,” said U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker in a statement. “We also saw growth in disparities for workers of color, including Black workers, whose fatality rate increased 12.4%, and Hispanic workers, whose rate grew by 10.4%.

“No worker should ever be disadvantaged because of their skin color or ethnicity, and that is never truer than when it comes to their lives and health,” Parker added. “This is why the Department of Labor has expanded its efforts to protect those disproportionately at risk of injuries and illnesses on the job.”

Injuries and Illness in Distribution

The number of injuries and cases of illness are also on the rise in the “lumber and other construction materials merchant wholesalers” category that roofing distribution falls under.

According to BLS data from its 2021-2022 “Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” report, there were 9,600 recorded cases of an illness or injury in 2022 in the aforementioned category, up 17% from the previous year.

Of those cases, 6,800 of them required the employee to miss work in some capacity. Just over half (3,600) resulted in taking at least one day away from work. The remainder are split between 3,300 cases involving a job transfer or restriction, while the rest (2,700) fell in the “other” category.

The data doesn’t quantify the types of illnesses for the industry, save to note that there were less than 50 cases of skin diseases or disorder cases in 2022.

Nationally, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2022, up 7.5% from 2021. According to the BLS, this increase is driven by the rise in both injuries, up 4.5% to 2.3 million cases, and illnesses up 26.1% to 460,700 cases.

Over the two-year 2021-2022 period, there were 2.2 million cases involving days away from work, representing 66.5% of the total cases involving days away from work, job restriction, or transfer.