What are the top causes of construction fatalities?

The construction industry is wrought with hazards, but the fatal four are the leading contributors to occupational fatalities for construction workers.

Despite the focus on safety by employers and the strict regulations, fatal accidents continue to plague the construction industry in California and throughout the U.S. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that one out of every five work-related fatalities in 2017 occurred in the construction industry. While there are numerous hazards present in the workplace that construction workers must watch out for, OSHA has identified four primary causes of occupational-related deaths in this field. Known as the "Fatal Four", these include falls, struck-by-object, electrocution and caught-in-between.


In 2017, 381 of the 971 total work-related deaths that occurred in the construction industry were due to falls. Standing on ladders or scaffolding, construction workers must often perform detailed tasks at significant heights. Failing to wear and use the appropriate equipment, neglecting to cover and secure floor openings, and not installing or maintaining perimeter protection may contribute to workers falling from heights and suffering serious or fatal occupational injuries.


Between the workers themselves, their tools and the equipment, there are a lot of moving pieces on even the smallest of construction sites. As such, workers may be caught off guard and find themselves positioned between fixed and moving objects, which could lead to head trauma or crushing injuries. The second leading cause of fatal construction accidents, struck-by-objects includes being hit by a suspended load that comes loose, debris that is thrown about during the work, a swaying load or rolling vehicles.


Whether they are installing wiring or are using it to perform their work, electricity is an ever-present hazard on construction sites. The third leading contributor to occupational deaths among construction workers, electrocutions accounted for 71 work-related fatalities in 2017. The danger may be heightened in cases when there is also water present, as well as when workers do not use the proper personal protective equipment or follow the appropriate safety protocols.


Caught-in-between accidents are the fourth leading cause of construction workplace deaths. These accidents occur when workers have a body part squeezed, caught or crushed between two or more objects. This can result from them being pulled into unguarded machinery, equipment rollovers or collapsing materials; however, workers may protect themselves by ensuring they are familiar with the equipment they are using or working near, staying focused on their tasks and wearing work-appropriate attire.

Seeking legal guidance

Fatal work accidents can leave families in California and elsewhere struggling with their grief, as well as facing challenges including the sudden loss of an income and affording the funerary expenses. Under some circumstances, however, the spouse, children and other dependents of an employee who dies due to a work-related injury or illness may be entitled to benefits such as reasonable burial expenses and partial wage reimbursement. Therefore, families who have lost a loved one in a construction or other occupational accident may benefit from discussing their rights and options with an attorney.