According to the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 900 construction workers suffered work-related fatalities in 2015 alone — making construction one of the deadliest industries in the United States. In fact, construction-related deaths accounted for more than 20 percent of all worker fatalities that year, as reported by the CFOI.
While the underlying causes of these construction deaths are numerous, the leading cause is one of the most obvious: work-related falls. Even New York, which has the toughest scaffolding laws in the nation, has had its fair share of construction-related deaths caused by falls.
How many construction workers have died from falls?
Excluding highway collisions, work-related falls are by far the most common cause of construction worker deaths. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 40 percent of the 937 construction-related deaths in 2015 were linked to falls.
To put this in perspective, more than twice as many construction workers died because of falls (364 deaths) than the next two common causes combined: being struck by objects (90 deaths) and electrocutions (81 deaths)
Given the dangers surrounding construction falls, it surprises many that some groups continue to call for the repeal or modification of New York’s Scaffolding Law, which is the statute that holds property owners and contractors accountable for worker-related falls. While groups who oppose the Scaffolding Law claim it simply increases the costs of construction, safety advocates believe this is the time to be strengthening worker protections, not eroding them.