More roofing contractors died due to workplace incidents than the previous year, with the majority of those deaths due to fatal falls, slips or trips.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roofing contractor deaths increased by 20% in 2021, the latest year available from the bureau. Of the 123 fatal incidents that took place, 99 of them, or 80%, were due to a fall.
When broken down into specific segments of the industry, nonresidential roofing contractors experienced massive increases in fatalities compared to the previous year. The number of total deaths jumped from 17 to 28, a 64% increase. Of those deaths, the majority (75%) were from falls, slips and trips. When compared to the previous year, the number of fatal falls in nonresidential construction went up by a whopping 83%.
If there’s a silver lining to be found, it’s in the data for residential roofing contractors. The total number of deaths marginally increased by 7% in 2021, going from 30 in 2020 to 31 in 2021. The number of falls, slips and trips actually decreased by 8%, going from 26 to 24 between 2020 and 2021.
The remaining fatalities that took place in the roofing industry were mainly caused by exposure to harmful substances or environments. These deaths grew by 8%, going from 13 in 2020 to 14 in 2021.
An Industry-Wide Problem
The roofing industry followed a grim trend seen throughout the construction industry. In 2021, nearly one in five workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry, and just over a third of those were due to falls, slips and trips. Nearly every incident was a fall to a lower level.
Data from BLS shows the construction industry accounted for 46.2% of all fatal falls, slips and trips in 2021. Fatalities among specialty trade contractors grew from 245 in 2020 to 281 in 2021, a 15% increase.
Not only are falls the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries, it’s the most frequently cited violation in construction industry inspections. Its shocking statistics like these that led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to announce on May 1 a National Emphasis Program to prevent falls in the workplace.
"This national emphasis program aligns all of OSHA's fall protection resources to combat one of the most preventable and significant causes of workplace fatalities," said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "We're launching this program in concert with the 10th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction and the industry's Safety Week. Working together, OSHA and employers in all industries can make lasting changes to improve worker safety and save lives."
OSHA states the program establishes guidance for locating and inspecting fall hazards and allows the agency’s compliance safety and health officers to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights.
BLS data shows that of the 5,190 fatal workplace injuries in 2021, 680 were associated with falls from elevations, about 13% of all deaths.
For information and resources on preventing falls, visit OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down page.
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