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Safety Brief: Fall Fatalities in the Workplace

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Safety Brief: Fall Fatalities in the Workplace

While the overall numbers of fatalities in the construction industry has decreased, deaths from falls continue to increase, according to a recent report.  Fall fatalities in construction have increased for the seventh year in a row and have risen by 45% since 2011.

In 2017, construction employment in the U.S. increased to 10.7 million workers, but with that increase, the number of fatalities among construction workers has also climbed.

Total fatalities climbed to 1,034 in 2016, a more than 32% increase compared to a low of 781 deaths in 2011, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training report.

That number fell to 1,013 deaths in 2017, a decrease of about 2%.

But fall fatalities continue to increase, especially falls to a lower level, the leading cause of construction fatalities over time, and the construction industry experienced more fatal falls to a lower level than any other major industry.

Of 389 fatal falls in 2017, 367 were to a lower level. In the same year, 51% of fall fatalities to a lower level occurred in the construction industry. Slips, trips and falls on the same level, while making up only a small percentage of total fatalities, were responsible for an increased percentage of fatalities in 2017 compared to 2011. Overall, fatalities from all types of slips, trips and falls in construction increased from 35% in 2011 to 38.5% in 2017.


Other key points researchers found include:

  • Small employers with fewer than 20 employees accounted for 75% of fatal falls between 2015 and 2017, despite making up only 39% of construction payroll employment.
  • Roofers had the highest risk of fatal falls with 35.9 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees, more than 10 times the rate of all construction occupations combined. However, the number and the rate dropped in 2017.
  • The rate of fatal falls among construction laborers decreased by 25% from 5.6 per 100,000 full-time employees in 2011 to 4.2 per 100,000 full-time employees in 2017.
  • About 75% of fatal falls involved roofs, scaffolds and ladders.
  • Workers over age 55 had more fatal falls from ladders than from any other sources.
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