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Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America commissioned a study to look into the causes of fatalities in the construction industry with the intention of learning new methods of preventing worker fatalities. The results may surprise you.

Preventing Falls in Construction

With an industry always looking for new ways to develop strategies to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America asked the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech to conduct a deep-dive analysis of fatality reports in an effort to provide more detailed information on trends to the construction industry.

The data used in this study comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS’s Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) program provides annual information on the rate and number of work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatal injuries, and how these statistics vary by incident, industry, geography, occupation, and other variables.

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This study is unique and innovative in many aspects >>

  • The data used is current so the findings reflect the most recent injury & fatality trends.
  • Unlike previous studies, this one drilled down deeper to capture specifics so the analysis resulted in more detailed and actionable information.
  • More advanced analytic techniques were adopted.
  • This analysis included an emphasis on work zone-related accidents and regional differences were also investigated.
  • Not only does this study provide injury and fatality statistics, it also gives concrete and actionable recommendations for intervention.
Construction Workers

Fatality trending has been historically challenging because of the relatively small number of data points (which is also a good thing), so this study analyzed three consecutive years of national data and then patterns did emerge.

Here are some findings from this important study:

  • Most fatalities occurred between 10am and 3pm with a peak at noon.
  • Small construction companies with under 10 employees accounted for 47% of the fatalities.
  • The South region has the highest annual fatality rate.
  • Fatalities increase during the Spring and Summer months.
  • Almost 75% of all fatalities occur Monday through Thursday of the work week.
  • Industrial project locations experienced the highest number of fatalities at 35%. Residential and Heavy project locations accounted for 25% and 29%, respectively. The remainder of fatalities occurred at Commercial (5%) and other (6%) locations.
  • Constructing activities accounted for 49% of fatalities, followed by vehicular and transportation operations (27%).
  • Falls are the leading cause of deaths in construction, accounting for one-third of all fatalities.
  • Wage and Salary workers accounted for 79% of fatalities (as opposed to self-employed, family or volunteer workers).
  • Workers 35-54 years of age accounted for 50% of all fatalities.

These graphs show the details for some of the findings listed above:


The final report for this study has been published and is a 30-page PDF document that anyone can download and view.


If you are interested, we encourage you to take a look at this study. It’s very easy to read and it is presented in an understandable and logical way. At the end of every section there is a list of Potential Actions that any employer can take to help prevent falls.

For example, because the study shows that the highest percentage of fatalities occurs at the noon hour, it may be beneficial to schedule additional toolbox talks or safety meetings around noon, and particularly on Wednesdays and Thursdays as those days of the weeks also have higher fatality rates.

With Falls continuing to be the top cause of fatalities, all organizations are encouraged to continue fall prevention awareness campaigns but also focus efforts on prevention through design. (Meaning, what can be done to ensure workers are not placed in a situation where there is a possibility a fall could occur.)

Since summer is the riskiest season for construction workers, the study provides several recommendations that companies can choose to implement to encourage safety on the job. While work hours may peak in the summer time, so too should the toolbox talks and safety meetings, especially on summer-specific subjects like preventing heat stress, hydration, and proper warm-weather PPE.

Adding regular safety meetings to your company’s safety and health program is guaranteed to improve workplace safety, boost team morale, lower insurance premiums, strengthen safety compliance and lower the risk of safety violations. Holding regular safety meetings with your crews, teams and staff is also the best way to ensure that your company is off to a great start meeting and exceeding OSHA’s compliance standards.

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