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What Type of Accident Kills Most Construction Workers?

What Type of Accident Kills Most Construction Workers?

There are four leading causes of fatalities on construction sites. Three out of five (59%) construction worker deaths in 2009 could be attributed to one of these causes. The types of construction accidents that killed most workers were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in or -between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (54.2%) of the 806 construction worker deaths in 2012, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The breakout is as follows:

  • Falls – 279 out of 806 total deaths in construction in CY 2012 (34.6%)
  • Struck by Object – 79 (9.8%)
  • Electrocutions – 66 (8.1%)
  • Caught-in/between – 13 (1.6%)


Fall hazards are considered anything that can cause a person to lose their balance or otherwise result in a workplace fall. In 2009, falls accounted for 34 percent of fatal construction injuries. Construction workers were involved in close to half of all fatal falls in private industry.

From 1992-2005, about one-third of the fatal falls in construction were from roofs, 18% were from scaffolding or staging, 16% were from ladders, and 8% were from girders or structural steel. The other 25% of fatal falls included falls through existing floor openings, from non-moving vehicles, from aerial lifts, and other places.

The leading cause of roofing injuries and fatalities are falls.

More ironworkers were killed from work-related falls than workers in any other construction occupation. The death rate was 10 times higher than the average.

Falls from ladders account for over 100 fatalities each year and thousands of injuries.

Examples of falls include those from elevation or ground level to lower levels; falls through existing floor or roof openings; falls through the floor or roof surface; and jumps from structures and equipment.

Struck by Object

OSHA defines struck-by injuries as those injuries that are produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment. Struck-by hazards include those accidents in which a worker is struck-by a flying object, struck-by a falling object, struck-by a swinging object and stuck-by a rolling object. If a worker is run over by a moving vehicle without being caught under it, it is considered a struck-by rolling object accident.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Contact with objects and equipment accounted for 17% of the total 4,340 fatal work injuries in 2009.

Electrocution Hazards

Electrocution results when a person is exposed to a deadly amount of electrical energy. Shock, burns and falls from elevations are also common electricity-related injuries. The severity and effects of an electrical injury depend on a number of factors, such as the pathway through the body, the amount of current, the length of time of the exposure, and whether the skin is wet or dry.

Data from the BLS cited by OSHA show that in 2005, the construction occupations with the highest average number of electrocution related deaths per year were electricians (29), construction laborers (19), supervisors/managers (13), electrical power installers and repairers (10). More specifically, electrical power installers and repairers and earth drillers were most often killed by electrocution.


According to OSHA, caught-in or -between hazards are defined as injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object. Workers can be pulled into operating equipment; pinned between equipment and a solid object; strangled as the result of clothing caught in running machinery; crushed between materials being stacked or stored and a solid object; or caught in a trench between shoring and construction materials. Cave-ins (trenching) are also events that are classified as Caught.

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