Study: Rooftop falls account for one-third of construction fall fatalities

Fatal falls among construction site workers happen from rooftops at an alarming rate despite protective measures that should be in place.

In the summer of 2013, a young roofer was killed when working in Connecticut. According to News 12, the 34-year-old man left behind a wife and two children after he fell from the structure he was working on.

Unfortunately, incidents such as this are all too common. While there are standards in place that should prevent rooftop falls, they still occur at an alarming rate. Further, as a recent study has found, rooftop falls are responsible for approximately one-third of all construction fatalities that result from a fall.

Key findings

The Center for Construction Research and Training Data Center conducted a study reviewing construction site incidents that took place between 1992 and 2009. According to the report, 20,498 people in the industry died due to an occupational injury. Of those, 6,591 happened as the result of a fall, and 2,163 of those falls happened from a rooftop.

Who is at risk?

The roofing industry is among the most dangerous when it comes to falls in construction. The study reports that people who work in roofing have thrice the risk of a fatal injury than construction workers in other areas. Other people at an increased risk include the following:

  • Small establishment employees: The study found that businesses with 10 or fewer workers had a disproportionate rate of fatal falls.
  • Hispanic workers: Researchers found 35 percent of fatal rooftop falls occurred among Hispanics, who only account for one-fourth construction deaths.
  • Residential site workers: The study states that people who work in residential construction have a disproportionate rate of fatal falls from roofs.

The rates of such falls were also higher for workers younger than 20 or older than 44.

Fall prevention

One of the most important items that the study revealed is that nearly half of the rooftop falls occurred around the roof edge. Researchers noted that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that guardrail systems and other protective items be used in order to prevent falls around the edge of a roof. However, the high incident rate indicates that this requirement has not been implemented as it should.

OSHA suggests that proper planning and training can prevent workers from suffering a serious on-the-job injury or death. Providing the proper training regarding how to use safety equipment is key. For example, people on rooftops should be able to identify the pitch of a roof and put the appropriate safety measures in place.

When an accident does occur, it is vital to understand how it happened. People who suffer a construction site injury in Connecticut should work with an attorney to determine what led to the event and who may be responsible for the damages.