5 Reasons Why Fatal Falls Keep Happening—and How to Prevent Them

A report shows that the number of fall deaths in construction rose more than 50% during a recent 12-year period.

May 3, 2024

2 Min Read
Thanumporn Thongkongkaew / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s not a surprise: Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry.

A recent report from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training shows the number of fatal falls in the industry rose more than 50% during a recent 12-year period.

“It’s definitely a difficult issue and it’s hard to change, quite frankly,” said G. Scott Earnest, associate director of the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health. “We’re just trying to communicate with the industry at large on the steps they should take to prevent falls in the future.”

Here are five factors that contribute to construction worker falls.

Not making time for safety

A CPWR analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that 397 fatal falls to a lower level occurred in the construction industry in 2022. That’s a 52.7% increase from 2011.

Especially vulnerable: workers employed by smaller construction companies. CPWR says 70% of the fatal falls occurred within organizations with 10 or fewer employees.


“I think some of it relates to the fact that they’re so busy just trying to get the next job,” Earnest said. “Some of these small businesses are not putting the resources and the time into safety because they’re so busy just trying to go from one job to the next and bring money into the organization.

Related:Fatal Falls Continue to Plague Roofing Industry, New Data Shows

“And for that matter, that could be the case with the workers, too, where they’re just trying to put food on the table for their family, so they’re not really taking time to really consider their own safety.”

The 11th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction—an initiative created by NIOSH, OSHA and CPWR —May 6-10. A poster created for the event encourages employers to:

  1. Train all workers.

  2. Plan a toolbox talk or other safety activity.

  3. Take a break to talk about how to prevent falls.

To read the rest of this story from Safety + Health, a publication of the National Safety Council, click here.

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