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What causes falls in construction? CPWR survey digs in

Photo: CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training

Silver Spring, MD — Lack of pre-work planning is a key underlying cause of falls in the construction industry, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

CPWR distributed the survey from February to May 2021 and received 495 responses from people who had been involved in, witnessed or investigated a fall incident.

More than a quarter (26.9%) of the incidents reportedly were fatal and 58.9% required immediate medical care.

The respondents most commonly identified insufficient or ineffective pre-work planning as the primary cause for the falls (27.4%). Notably, the odds of using fall protection were 71% lower for workers whose employer or competent person didn’t complete a pre-work task plan.


Other key findings:

  • 48.8% of the respondents said no fall protection was being used at the time of the incident.
  • Workers who believed fall protection was required by their employer were eight times more likely to use it than those who thought it was optional.
  • Individuals who worked for a subcontractor at the time of the fall incident were 2.7 times more likely to die from the fall compared with those who worked for a general contractor.

“Falls are the leading cause of death in construction, and they are preventable,” CPWR says. “This study provides actionable findings about leading root causes of falls and identifies opportunities for future research to better understand this urgent occupational safety issue and effectively address it.”

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