What is the leading cause of wrongful death in construction? Falls from high places are the leading leading cause of wrongful death in the construction industry. Since 2010, the number of fatal falls in construction have steadily risen. In 2015, OSHA recorded 367 fatal falls. Of these, 81% were the result of falls to a lower level. Last year, falls accounted for more than 1/3 of the 985 fatalities recorded in the construction industry.
From 2011 to 2015, 1598 construction workers have suffered wrongful deaths following falls on the construction site. Of these, 1533 were due to falls to a lower level. Overall, 2015 was the deadliest year in the construction sector since 2008, with height falling being a significant contributing cause of this increase. Of those who died between 2011 and 2015, 18.4% died in falls of less than 10 feet. 19.6% died in falls of 11 to 15 feet, and 17.3% died in falls between 16 to 20 feet. 22.8% died in falls of between 21-30 feet, and 21.9% died in falls of distances greater than 30 feet.
The most common causes of fatal falls from height in the construction industry included improper scaffold construction, misuse or failure of portable ladders, exposed and unguarded rebar supports, holes in the floor, and machinery. These safety failures expose workers to unnecessary risks on the construction site. Between 2011 and 2015, fatal falls from ladders accounted for 24% of wrongful deaths and scaffolds accounted for 15%. Machinery accounted for 5%, faults in flooring accounted for 4% of fatalities, and rebar/poles accounted for 2%.
Roofing contractors are at greatest risk of experiencing a wrongful death following a fall. They are followed by residential building contractors, painters, electricians, framers, and HVAC personnel. Other professions at considerable risk include civil engineers, masons, drywall/insulation installers, steelworkers, and carpenters.
Since 2012, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety have taken an active role in reducing the number of falls from heights via the Fall Prevention Campaign. These measures include enforcing standards on the worksite such as covering holes in floors, providing and securing guardrails, providing and maintaining safety harnesses, and ensuring that toe-boards are installed on elevated floors, platforms, and walkways. These protective measures must be adhered to on elevations of four feet or greater in general industry and six feet in the construction industry.
Brad Pistotnik is a wrongful death attorney who represents the family members and dependents of individuals of construction workers who have died in falls from height. Our firm represents survivors of deceased construction workers in Kansas City, Liberal, Topeka, Olathe, Wichita or any city in Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, or Oklahoma. Employers and equipment manufacturers have a duty of care to construction workers when it comes to maintaining safety standards and providing reliable safety equipment designed to prevent wrongful deaths in the construction industry. When employers violate OSHA safety standards or produce defective equipment, they breach this duty and are liable for the wrongful deaths that occur.
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