Avoid Falls in Construction


Category : Construction Safety

Falls are the number one cause of fatal injuries in construction . Although overall fatalities declined, in 2010, falls still caused 267 deaths in construction, accounting for about one-third of construction fatalities that year. Overall, 6,858 construction workers died from fall injuries between 1992 and 2010, about 360 deaths annually (chart a). From 2008 to 2010, the largest number of fatal falls (579 deaths) in construction occurred among Specialty Trade Contractors , but falls accounted for a larger proportion (48.7%, 135 deaths) of all fatalities in Residential Building Construction (NAICS 23611).

 1. Establishments in these two sectors are relatively small, and about 55% of all fatal falls in construction occurred in establishments with 1-10 employees from 2008-2010 (chart b). This was disproportionately high, given that less than 30% of construction workers were employed in establishments of this size. The risk of fatal falls varies among construction occupations. Between 2008 and 2010, the annual rate of fatal falls in construction was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs; see Glossary; chart c), but the risk for electrical powerline installers (28.5 per 100,000 FTEs) was nearly nine times the rate in construction, followed by a rate of 23.8 per 100,000 FTEs for both roofers and ironworkers. In addition, the risk of falls differs by demographics. Older construction workers had higher rates of fatal falls than their younger counterparts.

2. A higher risk of fatal falls was also found among Hispanic construction workers, particularly among those who were foreign-born.

3. Falls cause severe nonfatal injuries as well. In 2010, falls led to 18,130 nonfatal injuries resulting in days away from work (DAFW), accounting for 24% of the nonfatal injuries in construction. The rate of nonfatal fall injuries in construction was 50% higher than all industries combined.

4. Within construction, ironworkers had the highest rate of nonfatal falls resulting in DAFW at 75.1 per 10,000 FTEs, followed by sheet metal workers and roofers (chart d). Causes of fatal and nonfatal falls are different. Between 2008 and 2010, about 97% of fatal falls in construction resulted from falls to a lower level.

The primary cause of fall fatalities in construction was falling from roofs, accounting for one-third of the fatal falls (chart e), whereas falls on the same level were a common cause of nonfatal injuries (39.5%; chart f). To prevent construction worker falls, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and partners have launched a national construction falls prevention campaign, encouraging everyone in the industry (particularly residential construction contractors and workers) to work safely and use the proper equipment to reduce falls.


a. Number of fatalities from falls in construction, 1992-2010 (All employment)

b. Distribution of fatalities from falls in construction, by establishment size, 2008-2010 total (Wage-and-salary workers)

c. Rate of fatalities from falls, selected construction occupations, 2008-2010 average (All employment)

d. Rate of nonfatal injuries from falls resulting in days away from work, selected construction occupations, 2010 (Private wage-and-salary workers)

e. Causes of fatalities from falls in construction, 2008-2010 total (All employment)

f. Causes of nonfatal injuries from falls resulting in days away from work in construction, 2010 (Private wage-and-salary workers)

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