MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Twelve hundred construction workers were sent home Wednesday after 35-year-old Jeramie Gruber fell to his death at U.S. Bank stadium.

“A man lost his life on this project today and that simply should never happen,” said John Wood, a senior Vice-President with Mortenson Construction.

How often do construction accidents occur?  Good Question.

In 2013, 4,101 people across the U.S. died in connection with their work.  Just over 20 percent of them were in construction.

According to the Minnesota Department of Labor, construction jobs have the highest rate of injury, but more Minnesotans died from farming, forestry and fishing jobs.

“I’d say construction work is a safe profession,” said Peter Hilger, head of the construction management program at the University of Minnesota. “Construction work is always dangerous when you’re not paying attention to your environment.”

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, the leading causes of construction deaths are falls (37 percent), being stuck by an object (10 percent), electrocution (9 percent) and getting caught in or in between something (3 percent).

Hilger credits the creation of OSHA in 1970 for bringing all workplace accidents down.  In 1970, 38 workers died each day.  In 2013, it was 12.

Larger construction companies employ safety directors. Many companies have daily safety meetings and safety is a big component of the construction management classes at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s so important to maintain their insurance rates, their workers comp, to make sure they have good safety practices going on,” said Hilger. “The unions also have had a big hand in making sure their worker pool is safe.”

All injuries are recorded by the company and all fatalities are investigated by OSHA.

In the past four years, the Minnesota Department of Labor has investigated 27 deaths from falls.

From October 2013 through September 2014, Minnesota gave out 564 citations for “fall protection,” the most frequently cited standard.

Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium were built without fatalities.  In 2013, a demolition worker was killed while demolishing the old Gillette Building in St. Paul to make way for CHS Field. A piece of concrete fell on 61-year-old Johnny Valek’s backhoe.

“When something happens like this, it’s a family out there,” said Hilger. “It’s not just the family of the workers, all of the workers feel that effect when somebody dies.”

Mortenson, the U.S Bank Stadium contractor, says it’s investigating whether Jeramie Gruber was wearing a harness when he fell.

Heather Brown

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