The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency responsible for tracking workplace safety issues and accident statistics throughout the United States. OSHA also develops and enforces safety standards for all industries, and the agency periodically publishes reports of workplace accidents across all sectors of the US workforce.
The construction industry consistently ranks as the most dangerous industry for Americans regarding the number of injuries and fatalities reported by American construction companies. Therefore, it’s vital for everyone working in construction to understand the inherent risks of their work and the many ways severe and fatal accidents occur. However, if you wonder what type of accident has killed the most construction workers, the answer might surprise you.
OSHA’s “Fatal Four”
Workplace accident data gathered by OSHA from within the American construction industry has highlighted the four most common causes of fatal accidents among construction workers. While employees of the construction industry should do their best to avoid sustaining injuries at work, it is ultimately the responsibility of their employers to ensure the safest possible working environment and the availability of required safety equipment. According to OSHA fatal work accident data, the four most commonly reported causes of fatal workplace accidents in the construction industry are:
- Falls. Fatal injuries from falls account for about 36% of all construction industry fatalities. Construction often requires working on unfinished structures, many of which are multiple stories. Some construction workers must also use lifts and cable suspension systems to perform their work in high places. When safety gear or equipment malfunctions, or when construction workers must work outside in high places, falling incidents are likely to occur. The greater the height of the fall, the more likely the victim is to sustain catastrophic or fatal injuries.
- “Struck by” object injuries. Construction requires the use of various materials and equipment, including hand tools and other items that may be dropped from various heights. “Struck by” object injuries account for nearly 12% of all construction industry fatalities. These incidents typically involve objects falling onto workers below, often resulting in traumatic brain injuries. Even when construction workers wear appropriate head protection such as hard hats, a heavy enough object from a great height can still inflict massive, potentially fatal damage.
- “Caught in/between” object injuries. Construction often requires working in tight spaces and around large vehicles and objects. These injuries account for roughly 12% of construction injury fatalities and can happen in many ways. Some of the most commonly reported caught in/between injuries involve vehicle accidents, such as a construction vehicle backing a worker up against a wall or other object, pinning them.
- Electrocutions account for about 9% of construction work fatalities each year. Working on unfinished structures typically involves performing tasks around unfinished electrical systems. Exposed wires and mishandled electrical equipment can easily cause catastrophic electrical hazards for everyone in the vicinity.
These may be the four most common causes of construction worker fatalities, but it’s important to remember that many construction workers face a significant risk of death at work from many other variables, such as heavy machinery, dangerous tools, substandard safety equipment, device malfunctions, and exposure to toxic substances.
Falls are the most common fatal construction accident simply because there are so many ways for fatal falls to occur. Ladders, scaffolds, boom lifts, cranes, and other construction equipment used to elevate workers to high places are all potential fall risks. Therefore, construction workers should always use ladders, scaffolds, and other elevating equipment very carefully, and they should also wear appropriate safety equipment such as harnesses when working in high places. Unfortunately, even the most cautious and well-prepared construction industry workers can potentially suffer fatal falls.
Potential Injuries From Nonfatal Falls
Falls can easily result in death. While most people will survive falls from heights of 25 feet or less, the risk of death increases significantly with greater heights. However, a construction worker can suffer nonfatal but life-changing injuries from falls at work. When a falling incident does not immediately result in death, it can be challenging to estimate the full scope of effects the victim will face. Even if a construction worker survives a fall at work, they may suffer neck, back, and spinal injuries. Traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, facial injuries, and a host of other wounds are also possible from a fall.
Many construction workers who survive their falls develop permanent disabilities from these experiences. For example, spinal injuries can cause permanent paralysis, brain injuries can prevent the victim from living independently in the future, and severely broken bones can result in nerve damage and permanent loss of function.
What Happens After a Fatal Construction Accident?
If you recently lost a loved one due to a fall at their construction job or some other fatal incident in their workplace, you should know where to turn to for legal assistance for you and your family. The North Carolina workers’ compensation system can offer death benefits to victims of some workplace accidents. Depending on how your loved one’s fatal construction accident occurred, these death benefits may provide a measure of economic relief for your family for quite some time. Of course, money can’t replace a lost loved one, but it can provide some flexibility and peace of mind when you have lost a significant source of income for your family.
Fatal construction accidents are always tragic, and it can be incredibly difficult for any family to think of moving on after this type of experience. However, the right attorney can help a family take full advantage of their legal rights after a loved one has died due to negligence, carelessness, or regulatory noncompliance in a construction industry workplace. Suppose you need legal assistance in securing death benefits for your recently deceased loved one or are unsure of your legal rights after a family member’s fatal construction accident. In that case, M. Reid Acree, Jr., is ready to assist you. Contact our team today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options after experiencing a death in the family from a fatal construction accident.