Fact Sheet

Construction and Building Repair

Some nonprofit programs involve construction, renovation and/or rehabilitation of homes and other structures. Nonprofits offering these types of programs should know that construction is a high hazard occupation. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), during the period from 1980 through 1995, at least 17,000 construction workers died from injuries suffered on the job. Construction lost more workers to traumatic injury death than any other major industrial sector during this time period. Construction has the third highest rate of death by injury: 15.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. The leading causes of death among construction workers are falls from elevations, motor vehicle crashes, electrocution, machines, and struck by falling objects.

The following section looks at each of the leading causes of death, individually:

Falls From Elevation Hazards

Falls from elevation hazards are present at most every job site, and many workers are exposed to these hazards daily. Any walking or working surface could be a potential fall hazard. An unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet or more above a lower level should be protected from falling by the use of a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system. Based on data from the NIOSH National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System, falls from elevations were the fourth leading cause of workplace death from 1980 through 1994. The 8,102 deaths due to falls from elevations accounted for 10% of all occupational fatalities during this period and an average of 540 deaths per year.


Two basic fall-protection systems are used by the construction industry: fall-prevention and personal fall-arrest systems. Fall-prevention systems usually involve passive components, such as guardrails, parapet walls, railing, safety nets, and hole covers. Personal fall-arrest systems are designed to limit the distance that a worker can fall, thus limiting the forces acting on the worker’s body in the event of a fall. Fall-arrest systems require the use of a full-body harness to distribute fall arrest forces to minimize the extent of injury sustained in a fall. Other components of a fall-arrest system may include one or more of the following: rope grabs, shock absorbing lanyards, various types of connection hardware (such as snap hooks), horizontal or vertical lifelines, and anchorage points sufficient to withstand 5,000 pounds or two times the load expected in a fall. Where possible, nonprofit organizations should utilize passive systems because their effectiveness does not depend on specific actions by the worker being protected.


Falls From Elevation, NIOSH Construction Safety, NIOSH Worker Deaths by Falls, NIOSH Fall From Elevations Prevention Checklist