The Center for Construction Research and Training has organized data from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program to create a searchable database of construction fatalities. Using this database, they were able to identify trends in construction fatalities from 1982 to 2015.
They found that nearly half of all deaths in the construction industry during that window involved falls.
A LACK OF PROTECTION
Safety and Health Magazine ran an article in January on the findings. A total of 768 deaths were identified in the period measured, 325 of which involved falls. This comes out to 42 percent of all recorded construction deaths in the 33-year span. Of these, 54 percent had no access to a personal fall arrest system, and a further 23 percent were not using systems to which they had access. The fields most commonly lacking in adequate fall protection systems were residential contractors, roofing, siding, and sheet metal work. Of the fatal falls, 107 were from heights of at least 30 feet.
This problem is not a distant concern. In 2016, a construction company based in South Elgin was fined nearly $50,000 by OSHA for failing to provide adequate fall protection for their roofers. That January, inspectors had found workers on a residential shingle job operating without protection, and had cited the company for seven fall violations since 2010. And just last September, a construction worker at the site of the historic Morris aqueduct was airlifted in serious condition after a twelve-foot fall.
PREVENTION AND RESPONSE
According to the study, one of the hopes for the database is that it “may improve understanding of work-related fatalities and provide much-needed information on injury prevention.” OSHA introduced fall standards in 1995, and the data available is not sufficient for analysts to accurately gauge the effectiveness of those standards at this time.
However, the data did highlight the need for standards like them to be in place by identifying such a high number of construction deaths related to falling accidents. The OSHA standards include training for employees, which may also help to reduce the number of construction deaths occurring within the victims’ first two months on the job – currently 20 percent of all construction deaths.
Those who employ our construction workers owe their employees a safe working environment. The people who build our homes and cities have a right to access fall protection systems and the training to use them properly. When an employer fails in their duty to keep workers safe, they endanger the careers and lives of hard-working people. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a construction accident, contact us today to learn how we can help you.