Map: Ranking States on Construction Safety Performance

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Originally Published by: Insurance Ranked — May 1, 2023
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In 2021, 9.4 out of every 100,000 full-time construction laborers died from a fatal injury, which was the third-highest fatality rate of any private industry. Construction work is hazardous for several reasons, including working from heights and with dangerous equipment, and construction safety is more important than ever now due to a confluence of factors.

Recently passed federal legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to increase the number of building and infrastructure projects significantly soon. This increased workload could put more laborers in harm’s way. The construction industry is also facing challenges from a chronic labor shortage and supply chain snags. Financial challenges for construction firms and workers doing more with less can be a deadly combo.

We set out to reveal the most dangerous states for construction workers by looking at several key factors. We examined construction injury, illness, and fatality rates in each state, along with OSHA inspection, citation, and enforcement data. We scored each state based on these factors to determine a final construction safety score. The ranking should be helpful for many with ties to the construction industry and occupational safety and health.

South Dakota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire were excluded from the ranking due to a lack of official BLS data. Map:  

Big Takeaways:
  • Montana is a construction danger zone. Montana took the top spot as the most dangerous state for construction workers. Kansas, Florida, Nebraska, and Colorado rounded out the top 5 for the most hazardous.
  • More OSHA enforcement is better. States with the weakest OSHA enforcement in terms of inspections, citations, and fines also generally had the highest injury and fatality rates. The correlation was clear that more robust OSHA enforcement keeps workers safe.
  • The dangerous Midwest and South. The top 10 most dangerous states for construction safety were nearly all concentrated in the Midwest and South. This may be because more traditionally conservative states have less safety oversight from state and federal inspectors.
Most Dangerous States for Construction Workers 2023

Construction work is dangerous all across the U.S., but laborers in some states have it worse than others. Based on our analysis, there could be several reasons for this. We analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia and ranked them by injury, illness, and fatality rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and inspection, citation, and penalty data from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

All these factors were critical for determining which states were most dangerous for construction laborers. Higher injury and fatality rates obviously show a state is more dangerous, but our reasoning behind OSHA scoring was slightly different. One would think more OSHA fines and citations mean a state is more hazardous, but the data showed the exact opposite. This led us to believe that less OSHA oversight made the state more dangerous for the typical construction employee.

A note about the data: OSHA and BLS data for occupational safety and health is known to be full of gaps, and this is what we found, as well. We excluded four states from the ranking because they were missing more than one piece of critical data: South Dakota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

Here are more big takeaways from the analysis:

  • The fatal four states. Construction workers were more likely to die on the job in Montana than in any other state in 2021. Other states with alarmingly high fatality rates per construction laborer were Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas.
  • Bigger isn’t always more dangerous. There wasn’t a clear correlation between states with the most construction laborers and overall safety. For instance, California had the most laborers in 2021 by far but ranked in the middle of the pack.
  • On their own in New Mexico. New Mexico had the weakest OSHA enforcement out of any U.S. state based on the number of inspections, citations, and total fines per laborer. Other states with lackluster OSHA oversight included Arizona, South Carolina, and Kansas.

Several persistent construction industry challenges could hamper safety and health efforts this year in a sector that’s already dangerous. But depending on what state you work in, your chances of staying safe on the job site vary greatly. Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 most dangerous states for construction workers and the reasoning behind their risks.


#1 - Montana

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 30,290

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 40

Construction Fatalities Score: 1.32

OSHA Audit Score: 2.20

Final Score: 3.02

Montana has seen a sizable increase in population and construction jobs in recent years, but while it’s good for the state economy, it may not be good for construction safety. Federal data shows Montana construction jobs have surged by 11.4% in the past two years. But our data shows safety could be taking a backseat during this mad rush of building projects. Montana had one of the highest construction fatality rates (12.1) in the nation in 2021.

#2 - Kansas

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 57,500

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 32

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.09

OSHA Audit Score: 2.03

Final Score: 3.58

Like in many states, Kansas contractors are facing a dire labor shortage. Some reports suggest Kansas’ construction industry will need 58,000 new entry-level employees over the next five years to replace retiring Baby Boomers. The lack of workers could be one reason construction work in Kansas was so dangerous in 2021, as existing employees are stretched thin. Kansas’ construction fatality rate (14.9) was the nation’s second highest in 2021.

#3 - Florida

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 398,060

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 3

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.28

OSHA Audit Score: 2.27

Final Score: 3.62

A weakening economy may slow things down soon, but Florida’s real estate market has been red hot in recent years, keeping contractors busy. But like Montana, all the frenzied activity and building projects can easily lead to danger. Florida had the third-largest construction workforce in the U.S. in 2021 but also one of the most dangerous. Combine that with a state where OSHA enforcement has been lacking, and it has been a lethal recipe.

#4 - Nebraska

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 46,270

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 35

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.52

OSHA Score: 2.26

Final Score: 3.77

Nebraska is another state that had a high construction fatality rate (11.5) in 2021 and has seen lackadaisical OSHA enforcement since 2017. Very few OSHA construction inspections in Nebraska result in citations, and penalties have likely been too low to motivate some of the state’s worst contractors into compliance. Labor shortages are also complicating things for Nebraska contractors, so much so that many business leaders have convened to push for immigration reform to solve the shortages.

#5 - Colorado

OSHA Status: State OSHA Plan

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 137,060

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 13

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.39

OSHA Audit Score: 2.38

Final Score: 3.79

If less stringent OSHA enforcement leads to worse safety outcomes, Colorado could be a good example of why. Colorado ranked 13th nationwide in the number of construction laborers, and the State OSHA agency has conducted 1,210 job site inspections between 2017 and 2023. But too few inspections have led to citations, and when there are penalties, they tend to be too low. OSHA fines per laborer in Colorado hover around $15, which puts them on par with other dangerous states like Arkansas and Florida.

#6 - Arkansas

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 44,830

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 36

Construction Fatalities Score: 1.6

OSHA Audit Score: 2.4

Final Score: 4.05

The labor shortage in Arkansas is so bad that state lawmakers have rolled back child labor protections that make it easier for children under 16 to get hired, possibly for construction jobs. Arkansas isn’t the only state doing this, as Minnesota and Iowa are considering similar policies. Considering that Arkansas had the second-highest construction fatality rate in the nation in 2021 (18.4), the new child labor laws could prove dangerous.

#7 - Minnesota

OSHA Status: State OSHA Plan

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 107,180

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 21

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.59

OSHA Audit Score: 2.98

Final Score: 4.05

As we mentioned, Minnesota lawmakers are also considering relaxing child labor laws that would make it easier for contractors to hire 16-and-17-year-olds. Some contractors think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but it remains to be seen. In the meantime, construction workers in Minnesota are already suffering high injury and illness rates. Minnesota had one of the highest construction injury and illness rates (4.9) nationwide in 2021.

#8 - Georgia

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 140,930

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 12

Construction Fatalities Score: 1.53

OSHA Audit Score: 2.70

Final Score: 4.08

One reason construction safety is so poor in certain states is because of a lack of investment in safety education and training. Judging by the overall wages of Georgia construction laborers, that could be the case in this state. A recent study found that 44% of construction workers’ families in Georgia are enrolled in one or more welfare programs. If wages for Georgia construction workers are that low, it’s hard to imagine the investment in training employees on proper safety and health is much better.

#9 - Oklahoma

OSHA Status: Federal OSHA

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 79,440

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 28

Construction Fatalities Score: 1.65

OSHA Audit Score: 2.56

Final Score: 4.14

OSHA only conducted 563 construction inspections in Oklahoma between 2017 and January 2023, resulting in just 396 citations. This is partly why Oklahoma had one of the lowest OSHA Audit scores among the states we analyzed, and it could also be the reason for OK’s high construction fatality rate. The state’s construction fatality rate of 15.6 ranked as the third-worst nationwide in 2021.

#10 - Indiana

OSHA Status: State OSHA Plan

Employed Construction Laborers in 2021: 125,390

Employed Construction Laborers Rank: 16

Construction Fatalities Score: 2.60

OSHA Audit Score: 2.39

Final Score: 4.16

Construction work zone safety is a big problem nationwide, but it’s especially acute in Indiana. Fourteen construction workers were killed, and more than 650 laborers were injured in work zones in 2018, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (the most recent data). Along with the lack of work zone safety, Indiana construction workers have other problems. Fines for construction OSHA violations were just $6 per laborer in 2021, one of the lowest in the nation and not nearly high enough to deter unscrupulous employers.

Full Ranking Table of All U.S. States

How do all states stack up? We combined the eleven individual factors into two broad categories to create the Fatality and Injury Score and the OSHA Audit Score. Dig in below to see how individual states fared.


Contractors have much on their minds in 2023, and many things keep them up at night. The pandemic-induced supply chain problems still haven’t cleared up, leading to material price increases and project delays. A labor shortage that has been brewing for years is reaching crisis levels in some areas, with some positions harder than ever to fill.

Amid all this uncertainty, worker safety, and health should never be far from the minds of construction companies. Better workplace safety leads to lower workers’ compensation costs, higher employee morale, and reduced liability.

For construction laborers, safety is an obvious concern, and your chances of a safe workplace may depend on where you live. According to our analysis, construction workers in states like Montana, Kansas, and Florida may be in more danger than anywhere else in the nation. Increased OSHA oversight in these places could save many lives and help more construction workers return home to their families each night safe and soundly.


To find the most dangerous states for construction workers in America, we analyzed all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by several criteria. Four states were excluded from the ranking because of a lack of key Bureau of Labor Statistics injury, illness, and fatality data: South Dakota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

We compared every U.S. state and the District of Columbia across 2 key categories and a total of 11 individual factors:

We scored each factor with an equal-weighted score (where 10 is the highest score). We then averaged the factor scores within each of the categories listed above to find each individual category score. Then, we normalized the category score so that the highest-scoring state within each category received a high score of 10 (the highest score).

The final score was calculated by averaging the score of the 2 categories, then normalized to produce the final score and ranking.