887 workers lost their life after falling at their job sites in 2017 according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the highest number of fall deaths ever recorded by the BLS since the agency started to track these numbers almost 30 years ago. Fall fatalities account for 17% of all job-related fatalities and 40% of all construction job-related fatalities.
The most at risk are often construction workers with little training and experience who have been hired to work on construction sites after the recent boom in construction led to a labor force shortage in the industry. 60% of construction workers who died in a fall in 2017 were working for small companies (1 to 10 workers). As a comparison small construction companies only hire a third of the workforce in the construction industry in the US. Small companies are often hired for residential construction, a sector where fatal falls more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. Hispanic workers are the most at risk of dying in a fall accident. Language barrier, little training and also the fear of immigration authorities preventing undocumented workers to report dangerous conditions to OSHA are among the factors that led Hispanic workers to perform some of the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry.
Fall related violations are the most common OSHA violations
Not surprisingly, fall related violations are the most frequent on construction sites however it is impossible for the the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to send its 2100 inspectors to visit the 8 million construction sites they are responsible for. Additionally the penalties are sometimes so low that some of the worst employers continue to operate dangerously and even get their penalties lowered despite being cited by OSHA multiple times (see Rich Tiller Case in Nebraska)
Safety Stand-Dowm May 6-10
In the US, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and OSHA are teaming up to organize awareness campaigns such as the “National Safety Stand-Down” which is a voluntary event during which construction companies are invited to voluntary take time with their employees to focus on fall prevention. The next campaign will start on May 6 and last until May 10 2019. Hopefully more small businesses will participate.
Read more in Fair Warning