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Nearly half of construction worker fatalities involve falls

Using data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), researchers have determined that between 1982 and 2015, falls accounted for nearly half of all construction worker deaths—and more than half the workers killed did not have access to fall protection, according to Safety+Health magazine.

Data from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program allowed researchers from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) to find fatality reports for 768 construction industry fatalities and create a new searchable database—the Construction FACE Database—using those reports.

After analyzing the incidents in the new database, researchers concluded that during the 33-year period:

  • Forty-two percent (325) of the fatalities involved falls.
  • Fifty-four percent of the workers killed had no access to a personal fall-arrest system (PFAS), and 23 percent had access to a PFAS but did not use it.
  • Most of the workers with no access to a PFAS worked for residential building contractors and contractors in the roofing, siding and sheet metal sectors.
  • Of the 325 falls, 107 were from 30 feet or higher.
  • Twenty percent of the 768 deaths occurred during the victims' first two months on the job.

In the study abstract, the researchers say the database allowed them to analyze FACE reports "quantitatively and efficiently," adding "comprehensive research using FACE reports may improve understanding of work-related fatalities and provide much-needed information on injury prevention."

"Even though this study was unable to assess effectiveness of the OSHA fall-protection standard established in 1995, the considerable number of fall fatalities from lower heights provides strong evidence of the need for the OSHA requirement that fall protection be provided at elevations of 6 feet or more in the construction industry," researchers said.

NRCA offers resources, including publications and classes, that address safety issues such as fall-protection. Click here to view NRCA's health and safety publications in the NRCA Bookstore. Click here to learn more about NRCA's safety training classes.


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