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Falls From Heights on Construction Sites [2024 Guide]

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Overview of Fall Hazards in the Construction Industry, Causes of Falls from Heights, & Types of Fall-Related Injuries

On this page, we’ll discuss falls from heights on construction sites, the dangers and risks of working from heights, the importance of fall protection systems, types of fall-related injuries, and much more.

Falls From Heights in Commercial and Residential Construction Explained

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the construction sector records the most fatal falls yearly.

The agency shared that roughly 300-400 construction workers plunge to their deaths each year, and the numbers continue to rise over time.

In 2012, the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) spearheaded the National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction (NCPFC) along with other workplace safety organizations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are among the participating agencies.

Falls From Heights on Construction Sites Examining Causes and Types of Fall-Related Injuries

Despite these continuous efforts to promote fall prevention and safety, falls still rank as the leading cause of fatalities in construction.

This fact stresses the importance of understanding the causes and types of falls from heights on construction sites.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently revealed that the construction industry accounted for about 46.2% of workplace fall fatalities in 2021.

This terrifying statistic speaks volumes about the gravity of falls from heights on construction sites.

Our lawyers can help if you or a loved one have been injured in a fall from heights on a construction site.

Contact TorHoerman Law using the chat on this page to get started.

Table of Contents

Construction Accidents Resulting in Falls and Drops

Construction workers face the most occupational risks among workers in different industries.

This increased fall threat could be attributed to the nature of the job.

Construction workers often work in high-rise buildings or tall structures to mend broken parts or build facilities.

This situation gives rise to various accidents that could plunge a contractor into debilitating injuries or fatalities.

Scaffolding Collapses

Scaffolding is a necessary contraption used in construction work to access towering heights.

This construction tool isn’t always stable, and it could collapse for various reasons including:

  • Structural Weakness: Inadequate construction or faulty materials can compromise the integrity of scaffolding, leading to sudden collapses.
  • Improper Assembly: Incorrect assembly or disassembly of scaffolding components can create weak points, making collapses more likely.
  • Overloading: Exceeding the weight capacity of scaffolding with equipment or workers can cause it to buckle and collapse.

It’s critical for construction workers to understand the risks associated with scaffolding so they can avert accidents.

Ladder Mishaps

Ladders are common construction tools also used to reach tall structures.

Unlike scaffolding, ladders can only get to a certain height, which makes the injuries less severe.

Some causes of ladder mishaps include:

  • Improper Placement: Ladders placed on uneven surfaces or not appropriately secured can shift or slip, causing workers to fall.
  • Incorrect Usage: Climbing a ladder with too much weight, skipping rungs, or overreaching can lead to loss of balance and falls.
  • Lack of Stability: Ladders without proper bracing or stabilizers can wobble or tip over, resulting in tragic accidents.

Falls From Roofs or Elevated Work Platforms

Working at heights, including roofs and elevated platforms, presents an evident and significant fall risk.

When working at a steep fall distance, construction workers are vulnerable to:

  • Unprotected Edges: The absence of guardrails, safety nets, or barriers around roofs or elevated work areas increases the likelihood of accidental falls.
  • Slippery Surfaces: Wet or icy conditions on roofs or platforms can cause workers to lose footing and slip off, resulting in falls.
  • Unsafe Practices: Engaging in tasks near edges without proper safety precautions, such as harnesses or safety nets, can lead to falls.

The Most Common Causes of Fatal Falls on Construction Sites

Fatal falls are among the most significant risks on construction sites, often resulting in severe injuries or death.

Common causes of fatal falls include:

  • Lack of fall protection
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Inadequate training
  • Equipment failure

Lack of Fall Protection

The absence or inadequate use of safety equipment like harnesses, guardrails, and safety nets in construction sites poses grave risks to workers’ safety.

If this issue remains unresolved, it could lead to catastrophic injuries, fatalities, legal consequences, and reputational damage for the construction company.

Falls from heights in construction sites often result in severe injuries or fatalities.

Without safety equipment to arrest the fall or cushion the impact, workers may suffer broken bones, traumatic head injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, or even death.

Injuries sustained from falls can lead to extended recovery periods, during which workers may be unable to work.

This outcome affects the individual worker, disrupts project timelines, and incurs additional costs for the construction company.

Inadequate safety measures can create fear and anxiety among workers, negatively impacting morale and productivity.

Workers may feel reluctant to perform tasks at heights without proper protection, leading to delays in project completion and reduced efficiency.

Employers must prioritize and enforce comprehensive safety measures to protect the well-being of their workforce and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Unsafe Working Conditions

Unsafe working conditions, such as unstable working surfaces, unprotected edges, and hazardous weather conditions, pose significant risks to construction workers.

Conditions that put a construction worker’s life at risk include:

  • Unstable Working Surfaces: Unstable surfaces, such as uneven ground or poorly constructed scaffolding, increase the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls.
    • Workers may lose their balance or footing, leading to accidents and injuries.
  • Unprotected Edges: The lack of guardrails or barriers around the edges of roofs, elevated platforms, or open excavations exposes workers to the risk of falling from heights.
    • Without proper protection, even a momentary loss of balance or concentration can lead to severe injuries or fatalities.
  • Hazardous Weather Conditions: Turbulent weather conditions such as high winds, rain, snow, or ice can create slippery surfaces, reduce visibility, and compromise the stability of structures.
    • Working in such conditions increases the likelihood of accidents, including falls, equipment malfunctions, or being struck by falling objects.

These scenarios are easily alleviated with quick tweaks and regular inspections.

Replacing unreliable ladders, installing barriers, and using non-slip footwear can provide better protection and make the workplace a little bit safer.

Inadequate Training

Insufficient training on the proper use of fall protection gear and safe work practices significantly increases the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites.

Workers may not understand how to properly use fall protection gear such as harnesses, lanyards, or guardrails or be unaware of safe work practices when working at heights.

Without adequate training, workers may be unable to accurately assess the risks associated with working at heights or identify potential hazards, leading to unsafe behaviors and practices.

They may also disregard safety procedures or take shortcuts when working at heights because they lack an understanding of the potential consequences or the importance of following safety protocols.

Regularly implementing comprehensive training programs that cover the proper use of fall protection equipment, safe work practices, etc., could help with this problem.

You can also conduct random inspections to see which workers aren’t complying with the safety protocols.

Equipment Failure

Construction workers use a range of dangerous equipment to complete tasks at heights, including ladders, scaffolding, and aerial lifts.

In an ideal setting, these tools regularly get inspected and maintained to ensure they’re in good working condition.

Many construction companies cut corners to save costs and neglect the regular maintenance or replacement of equipment.

These tools are prone to wear and tear during regular use, making them susceptible to malfunctioning.

A small mistake with equipment, like a faulty ladder or a fraying harness, could result in serious injuries or fatalities.

It’s worth reiterating at this point that regular equipment maintenance and proper training on equipment use can significantly prevent serious accidents or deaths.

Scheduling beforehand when to inspect equipment or creating a checklist for workers to follow before using the equipment may lessen the likelihood of equipment failure.

Different Types of Fall-Related Injuries

As established, construction sites breed numerous safety risks, not only for workers but also for those walking around its parameters.

Falls from heights can result in a wide range of injuries, varying from minor bruises to severe, life-altering brain injuries.

Understanding the different types of fall-related injuries is crucial for implementing effective safety measures and mitigating risks.


Fractures are among the most prevalent injuries resulting from falls in construction sites, occurring when the force applied to the bone is greater than it can absorb.

Fractures can vary in severity, ranging from simple hairline fractures to compound fractures where the bone pierces through the skin.

These injuries can significantly impede mobility and require medical intervention from casting to surgical repair.

While fractures are easily treatable, they may take time to heal completely.

Some might even have to undergo rehab to regain strength and movement.

Head Injuries

Head injuries are another significant concern in construction site falls.

The head is a fragile organ and is highly vulnerable to falling from a great height.

Head injuries can range from minor concussions to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) with long-lasting effects:

  • Concussions: Concussions are among the most common and easily treatable injuries from fall accidents. While some concussions resolve with rest, others can lead to long-term complications such as persistent headaches, cognitive difficulties, and mood changes.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs): Severe falls may result in TBIs, causing varying degrees of cognitive impairment, memory loss, and motor dysfunction. TBIs often require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, and the long-term consequences can be debilitating.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Falls from heights can lead to spinal cord injuries, which have the potential to cause permanent disability and impairment.

These injuries can affect mobility, sensation, and bodily functions below the site of the injury.

Damage to the spinal cord in the thoracic region can result in paraplegia, causing paralysis of the lower limbs and potentially affecting bowel and bladder control.

Injuries higher up on the spinal cord, such as those in the cervical region, can lead to quadriplegia, which involves paralysis of both the arms and legs.

Internal Damage

Falls can also result in internal injuries, which may not be immediately apparent but can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Internal bleeding from punctured organs is an apparent outcome of this accident and could result in organ failure or death when untreated promptly.

Blunt force trauma from a fall can also cause traumatic damage to internal organs.

Depending on the severity, organ damage may require surgical intervention to repair.

Other Fatal Injuries

Falls at construction sites can also result in other fatal outcomes.

Outcomes may include:

  • Exsanguination: Severe falls can lead to massive blood loss, resulting in exsanguination (bleeding to death) if not treated urgently.
  • Crushing Injuries: Falls involving heavy equipment or materials can lead to crushing injuries, which may cause death due to the severity of trauma sustained.
  • Mental Health Issues: Experiencing a severe fall or witnessing one can have long-lasting psychological effects, leading to conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.

Long-Term Impacts of Construction Accident Injuries

Injuries resulting from construction fall accidents entail long-term impacts on various aspects of life.

From permanent or long-term physical limitations to emotional scarring and financial impacts, accident victims are left to deal with a lifetime of consequences.

Consequences include:

  • Physical Limitations: Severe injuries such as spinal cord damage or amputations can lead to permanent disabilities, profoundly affecting mobility, independence, and overall quality of life.
    • These injuries may restrict individuals’ ability to perform routine tasks independently, necessitating ongoing assistance and adaptations.
  • Mental Health Impact: Surviving a traumatic fall can lead to PTSD and heightened anxiety, impacting mental well-being and overall functioning.
    • Coping with the physical and emotional aftermath of a fall can also contribute to depression and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, further diminishing the quality of life.
  • Financial Impact: Long-term disabilities often result in the inability to work, leading to a loss of income for the injured worker and their family.
    • This can be particularly challenging if the injured worker is the primary earner.

This list doesn’t include all the other long-term impacts fall victims and their families can suffer.

Other factors, such as social isolation, relationship strain, and loss of enjoyment or participation in hobbies or activities, can also significantly impact an individual’s life.

Prevention Strategies for Fall Accidents on Construction Sites

Implementing effective fall prevention strategies is paramount to ensuring the safety of workers on construction sites.

Some key prevention strategies and best practices employers must observe in construction sites include:

  • Comprehensive Safety Training: Regularly train workers on fall hazards, prevention techniques, and the proper use of safety equipment.
    • If the company uses personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), every worker must understand how they work and their proper mounting techniques.
  • Regular Safety Audits and Inspections: Schedule routine inspections of construction sites to promptly identify and address potential fall hazards.
    • Inspections should cover all bases where falls are likely to occur, including scaffolds, elevated work platforms, and rooftops.
  • Correct Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Ensure workers can access and use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including harnesses, lanyards, helmets, and non-slip footwear.
    • PPE should be properly fitted, inspected regularly, and replaced as needed.
  • Adherence to OSHA Regulations and Industry Standards: Familiarize yourself with OSHA regulations and industry standards about fall prevention and protection in construction.
    • Ensure that your safety protocols and equipment meet or exceed these requirements.

The Legal Aspects of Fall-Related Injuries in Construction Accidents

Fall-related injuries in the construction sector carry significant legal implications, with employers and workers subject to various legal obligations and rights.

Understanding the legal aspects surrounding fall-related injuries is crucial for ensuring compliance with regulations and protecting workers’ rights.

Key legal considerations include:

  • Legal Duty of Employers: Employers are legally obligated to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including protection from fall hazards.
  • Worker’s Right To Refuse Unsafe Work: Workers have the right to refuse to perform work they believe to be unsafe. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for exercising this right.
  • Workers’ Compensation Claims: Workers who suffer a fall-related injury are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of fault.
    • Workers’ compensation provides medical treatment, wage replacement, and disability benefits to injured employees.
  • Potential for Negligence Claims: In cases where employer negligence or third-party liability contributed to a fall-related injury, injured workers may pursue personal injury lawsuits for additional compensation.
  • Damages for Pain and Suffering: Unlike workers’ compensation, personal injury lawsuits allow for recovery of non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

TorHoerman Law: Protect Your Rights in a Workplace or Construction Accident

The construction industry is filled with life-threatening risks.

This grave reality calls for vigilance, compliance with regulations, and proactive prevention measures on the part of employers.

If employers fail to provide an adequate working space or protocols to prevent falls, employees could seek legal action for their employer’s negligence.

Hiring an experienced construction accident attorney protects your interests and rights if you suffer a fall-related injury in the workplace.

At TorHoerman Law, we have experienced attorneys who specialize in construction accident cases and are committed to protecting workers’ rights.

Contact us today for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.

You can also use our chatbot for an instant case review.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most common risks of working from heights on construction sites?

    Working from heights in the construction industry presents several risks, including the danger of falling to lower levels, slipping off roofs, and tripping over equipment.

    Key fall hazards include unstable working surfaces, unprotected edges, and gaps in flooring.

    Employers must address these risks by implementing comprehensive fall protection systems and ensuring proper worker training.

  • Why is fall protection critical in preventing injuries on construction sites?

    Fall protection is crucial because falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries in the construction sector.

    Effective fall protection systems, such as personal fall arrest systems, safety nets, and toe boards, help prevent falls from heights and minimize the risk of serious injuries.

    These measures are vital for safeguarding workers and maintaining a safe workplace.

  • What types of injuries are most frequently associated with falls from heights?

    Injuries from falls from heights can range from minor to fatal.

    Common injuries include broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

    These injuries often occur when fall protection measures are inadequate or ignored.

  • How can construction sites effectively implement fall protection systems?

    Effective implementation of fall protection systems in residential and commercial construction involves several steps.

    These steps include:

    • Assessing all fall hazards
    • Planning projects with safety in mind
    • Providing the right equipment and training to workers

    Employers must ensure that personal protective equipment is maintained and that safety measures like guardrails and fall arrest systems are properly installed.

  • What steps should a worker take immediately after experiencing a fall on a construction site?

    After a fall, a worker should seek immediate medical attention, even if the injuries seem minor.

    Reporting the incident to a supervisor is crucial for documentation and investigation purposes.

    Following an accident, a review of fall protection practices should be conducted to prevent future incidents, and workers should be retrained if necessary to reinforce safety protocols.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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