Safety Pays. Falls Cost

Posted on by Christine Branche, PhD; Pietra Check, MPH; Janie Gittleman, PhD, MRP; Scott Schneider, MS, CIH; Pete Stafford

One sunny June morning in 2009, Hector* went to work just as he had every other morning. He climbed to the roof as usual to begin working. But this day was different. In an instant, Hector was hanging over the outside edge of the second story wall of the home the residential construction company he worked for was building.

While working on the top plate of the two-story home, Hector had lost his balance. As he stumbled, he had tried to regain his footing by stepping on a pressure block, but the block blew out and he had fallen.

Fortunately, because Hector was using fall protection he is not among the thousands of workers we remember this year on Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28, 2012.  He fell only inches, not two stories. He was pulled back up onto the roof by a coworker, treated with first aid for a minor cut on his leg, and returned to work.

In an effort to create more successful outcomes like Hector’s, this Workers’ Memorial Day NIOSH and its partners are announcing a new campaign to prevent falls in the construction industry.  Falls are the top cause of death in construction and account for one-third of all on-the-job deaths in the industry. Each year in the U.S. over 200 construction workers are killed and over 10,000 are seriously injured by falls.

This campaign to prevent falls in construction grew out of multi-stakeholder discussions held by the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Construction Sector Council.  The campaign, Safety Pays. Falls Cost. was conceived through this government-labor-management partnership, which includes NIOSH, OSHA, state government, private industry, trade associations, academia, and professional and labor organizations.

The campaign will focus on small residential construction contractors and workers and will work to prevent the three major types of fatal falls:  falls from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds.  We know that promoting the use of the right equipment and fall prevention practices will reduce the number of fall-related fatalities and injuries in the construction industry.  As such, the campaign will focus on the need to plan ahead for safety before every job; provide the right equipment for the job; train workers to use the right equipment; and to otherwise work safely at heights. But, to make the campaign a success, we need your help!

How can you help?

First, sign on as an official supporter of the campaign at the Stop Construction Falls website or use the blog comment section below.

Every little bit helps.  We need your help to…

  • Produce and distribute Campaign materials:
    •  Collect or create testimonial and technical videos
    • Print materials such as checklists, factsheets, and posters
    • Produce and distribute giveaway and promotional products
  • Get the word out:
    • Post information about the Campaign and link to on your website and Facebook page.
    •  Write about the Campaign in your newsletter or in a trade publication—we have background articles prepared that you can adapt easily.
    • Communicate regularly with your constituents and other groups to raise their awareness of the Campaign and to pass on the Campaign materials.
    • Advertise the Campaign through paid media and/or other opportunities.
  • Promote, hold, or sponsor trainings, demonstrations, or events to raise awareness.
  • Assist with evaluating the effectiveness of the Campaign.
  • Reach out to new partners in government, labor, and industry.
  • Keep us informed about what you are doing!

We hope you will join us in this partnership as we work to make the construction industry safer.

The following sites offer more information on the campaign and prevening falls in construction.

—Christine Branche, PhD; Pietra Check, MPH; Janie Gittleman, PhD, MRP; Scott Schneider, MS, CIH; Pete Stafford

Dr.  Branche is the Principal Associate Director of NIOSH and Director of the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health.

Ms. Check is a Health Communications Specialist in the Office of the Director, NIOSH.

Dr. Gittleman is Chief, Occupational Safety, Health & Environmental Compliance for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Schneider is the Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America.

Mr. Stafford is the Executive Director of CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training.

*Pseudonym to protect the worker’s identity.

Posted on by Christine Branche, PhD; Pietra Check, MPH; Janie Gittleman, PhD, MRP; Scott Schneider, MS, CIH; Pete Stafford

24 comments on “Safety Pays. Falls Cost”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Very interesting article thanks!
    Tyler Hegamyer
    MD Solar –

    I think they are doing a great job. One of the best ways of preventing accidents in the construction industry is denouncing irregularities. Many times the workers themselves do not dare for fear of losing their jobs. We should be the other citizens who collaborate to avoid such accidents.


    Safety is always very important at any job. Preventing injury and having workshops how to prevent or help out if something happens should be part of any job training practices.

    One of the key aspects of ensuring a workplace is safe for employees is making sure that all equipment is safe for use.

    If you are working at height you need to be certain that any ladders, ropes or platforms that you might be using are safe and their use will not result in a potentially fatal fall. If companies are not comfortable managing this internally they can always contract third parties. No compromises should be made with the safety of employees.

    I like this article. We had couple of accidents in work but thez were always caused by human fail.
    We using harnesses invented for work but sometimes I feel a bit unsafe in them so I like to use climbing harnesses instead but nobody will allow me to use them in work because they are for climbing and not for work. We have to follow rules which are sometimes nonsense !
    Thanx Tom

    Your employer is correct. Climbing equipment is not appropriate fall protection for the workplace. You may want to try different styles of harnesses for your workplace tasks to see if a different style is more comfortable for you.

    I as chair of the staffing of committee of a RSL – Registered Housing Landlord in UK, with more than 576 full time staff engaged in various housing related trades including gas, electricity and routine jobs which includes climbing ladders to access jobs at varying heights above ground level.
    the absolute priority as the chair of the staffing committee is to ensure the relevant executive director of property has ensured that every daily task carried by the trades staff is preceded by an in-depth risk assessment report – these risk assessment reports are compiled by the strategic management team who have been in the construction and trades industry for many years, and every potential risk identified must be alleviated by identifiable solutions which will reduce the potential risk a level that is negligible and acceptable. and this risk assessment process and all outcomes is regularly monitored and the risk levels are assessed at the bi-monthly Staffing committee meeting of which the staffing committee is a delegated committee of the Board, which I am the Boards representative on the staffing committee.
    The RSL which I am a Board Member is pro-active in reducing the inherent risks apparent in all industries, but with active monitoring and risk assessments that is assessed at Board Level, the dangers of accidents are dramatically reduced by a commitment to protect our most important asset the very people who makes our RSL successful and that is the staff. Responsibility for risk assessment and the reduction of workplace injuries must rest with the Board Members and not just line managers of a company as the staff is a very important stakeholder of the organization.

    It appears that you are walking the talk, and we appreciate it. You are to be commended for your efforts.

    I appreciate your constructive comments and will add that the Registered Social Landlord (RSL) Organisation of which I am a board member is one of the largest construction companies in the region, and we extend the risk assessment processes through the company including office based staff, and staff who has the responsibility to visit the RSL’s clients – i.e. visiting homeowners at their residences – the risk assessments include assessed dangers from homeowners, family pets and any relevant risk factors.
    Although our highest risk factors involves the maintenance and newly construction build, and the risk assessments includes the householders risks and all other potential risk factors including pedestrians, straying children who finds the construction site an adventure playground.
    Which leads on to educating the children of the dangers of construction sites, in the form of a fifteen minutes video which highlight the dangers of straying on the construction sites, this video starred children and the video was created by teens with support from staff.
    The video link on Youtube is:
    The video is about Building Site Safety, and named:10 Little School Children.
    This video was shown on BBC TV and has become very popular.
    As an organisation we have a responsibility to every member of our community and will always consider that the protection of all people is a priority, as one accident is one too many accidents.

    I so agree that it is important to promote using the rtight equipment to prevent falls from roofs & ladders. It is often these small things that matter most. Thanks for sharing!

    Great post, thanks ever so much for sharing.

    Safety is so important in the work place and it is nice to see that things have move forward and that employers are taking this matter seriously and we are now a lot safer then we were 10 years ago at work.


    Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your interest in workplace safety and health and the NIOSH Science Blog.

    It wouldn’t hurt to have an “ABCs of construction site safety” posted at strategic places at the construction site to somehow remind everyone of the danger lurking ahead if not careful.

    It’s very important that any one working at height fully understands not only the risks they are taking but more that they can readily identify and utilise the appropriate safety equipment required.
    In other words a company has not adequately discharged its duty of care until an assessment of potential risks and hazards has been carried out by a competent person, who is also able to qualify any anchor points being used and the worker has been trained to work at height.

    Safety should be the main concern in every job. You’re doing a great job in raising awareness about workplace risk. Great read! Residential Builders in Adelaide

    As long as there are safety procedures being followed, everyone can be safe. That’s the most important part. The article is very informative! Thanks!

    I have to agree with the above comment… you write very informative posts. Your blog has everything I like:
    discovery of something new accurate and research-based information, and thorough and careful explanations.

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