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How dangerous is working at heights in construction?

Construction sites are one of the most dangerous working environments. Yet, companies could avoid many accidents if they took more care.

Falls from high places are the biggest danger, accounting for 38% of all fatal accidents on construction sites. You do not need to be high up to be at risk either. Here is how the height of fatal falls splits out:

  • Below six feet: 12%
  • 6ft to 10 ft: 17%
  • 11ft to 15 ft:12%
  • 16ft to 20ft: 12%
  • 21ft to 25ft: 16%
  • 26ft to 30ft: 7%
  • 30ft or more: 16%

Why do numbers not rise as you climb higher?

Firstly, fewer people work very high off the ground, so there are fewer people to fall in the first place.

Second, people are less likely to take shortcuts at greater heights. An employer might tell you to climb a few feet up a ladder or that you will be fine on the first level of scaffolding provided you hold on. Once you hit serious heights, they are more likely to give you proper safety gear.

Third, they are also more likely to think carefully about who they send up to the top of the structure. By contrast, a manager might consider it OK to send a novice a few feet off the ground.

Employers could prevent most falls from height if they insisted on strict safety standards for anyone leaving the ground, however low. These include:

  • Proper training
  • Correct equipment
  • Looking for safer alternatives

Think about how people built roofs in the past. A bunch of people climbed up and hammered everything into place while up there. Nowadays, most builders would join the roof sections on the ground then crane the complete structure into place. It reduces the number of people who need to go to height and reduces how long they spend up there.

Employers have a duty to keep you safe. If you are injured in a fall from height, you have the right to claim workers’ compensation insurance so that you have the medical care you need and other benefits.