Falls are becoming a more common cause of injuries in the construction industry. Between 2011 and 2015, the annual number of falls has increased by 36 percent – an increase from 781 falls in 2011 to 985 falls in 2015. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, the rise in construction accidents is likely attributable to a rise in construction from an improving economy. From a demographic standpoint, these injuries are most common in Hispanic workers, foreign-born workers, workers over the age of 55, and roofers. Geographically, these injuries from falls are specifically concentrated in urban areas – such as Los Angeles and New York.
Hispanic workers are much more likely to die from construction-related accidents than non-Hispanic workers. In a survey by The Center for Construction and Research and Training, Hispanic construction workers have a fatality rate of 4.9 per 100,000 workers, while white non-Hispanic workers have a fatality rate of 3.0 per 100,000 workers. Foreign-born and older workers also have an elevated risk of dying on a construction site – at 3.7 deaths and per 100,000 workers. Workers over the age of 55 are the group most susceptible to falls – accounting for 31 percent of falls, at a rate of 8.1 per 100,000 workers.
Perhaps obviously, fatal falls occur more ofter in states and cities with larger populations. With New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago reported the most construction fatalities. In addition to being larger cities (thus, with more construction), the fatality maps are drawn from local news reports – more common in large urban areas. In New York City, the rate of fatal falls has risen significantly – to almost 51 deaths between 2011 and 2016. This corresponds with the massive increase in construction activity in the city – specifically Manhattan. While only 2,535 housing units were under construction in 2011 – that number increased to a whopping 12,612 in 2015.
Surprisingly, the height of the fall had relatively little impact on the survival rate of the worker. A full 21.9 percent of fatal falls occurred from over 30 feet. However, 55.3 percent of fatal falls occurred from a height of 20 feet or less – with 38 percent of deaths occurring from falls under 15 feet. This is possibly because construction at higher elevations are more likely to have scaffolding and other safety equipment.
In summary, fall injuries (and fatalities from falls) have markedly increased since the economic recovery. Unfortunately, the same demographic and geographic groups are still being hit the hardest – denser cities, older workers, Hispanic workers, and foreign workers.