COVID-19 and construction: CPWR report highlights pandemic’s

Silver Spring, MD — The rate of nonfatal illnesses in the construction industry jumped 81.4% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the annual average for the previous four years, according to a new report from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

Using data that covered different time periods from 2016 to 2022, researchers found that the rate of nonfatal illnesses in the construction industry increased to 12.7 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2020 from an average of 7.0 per 10,000 FTEs over the four previous years. Overall, around 8,700 nonfatal illnesses were recorded in 2020, compared with an annual average of 4,600 over the previous four years.

The number of nonfatal respiratory illnesses increased to 5,300 in 2020 from an annual average of 425 from 2016 to 2019. That equates to a large spike in the rate per 10,000 FTEs, to 7.7 from 0.6 – a 1,183% increase.

Looking at COVID-19 vaccination rates by major occupational category in May, construction and extraction workers (52.4%) trailed all others and lagged far behind the percentage for all industries, which was 81.7. Those workers’ top reasons for not getting vaccinated, according to a Delphi Group survey that allowed respondents to choose more than one, were:

  • Distrust of COVID-19 vaccines (61.4%)
  • Distrust of the government (59.2%)
  • Don’t need a vaccine (58.7%)
  • Worried about side effects (55.8%)


“Construction work was deemed essential early in the pandemic,” the report states. “One of the most important steps to keeping construction workers safe on the worksite is the COVID-19 vaccine. The dramatic increases in nonfatal respiratory illnesses among construction workers highlight the pandemic’s impact on construction worker safety and health and the need for vaccinations.”

CPWR highlights its COVID-19 Construction Clearinghouse among its resources “on the science and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.”