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Addressing fall protection for the construction industry

April 30, 2024

In February, a contractor on a jobsite of a multi-story structure was working on the top level next to the leading edge. While conducting a common task, putting refuse into a trash chute, he slipped and nearly fell over the edge of the building.

According to the company’s safety director, the employee was saved from a potentially fatal fall by using proper fall protection measures. The company had recently improved their formal fall protection program.1

Tragically, there are many other instances where lives are lost. In the construction industry, falls are one of the main concerns for employee safety and are second only to vehicle accidents in total deaths.2

The most current Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that falls continue to be a leading cause of construction deaths and injuries on jobsites with more than 400 fall-related deaths each year and thousands of serious injuries, and this has been a consistent trend for over a decade.2

Despite increased awareness and stringent regulations, these accidents continue to disrupt workers’ lives and livelihoods, as well as businesses’ ability to operate. Business owners must understand the needs of their workers and provide safety and training resources to prepare workers to face risks.

What’s behind the issue

The Center for Construction Research & Training recently conducted a research study into the causes of falls. In almost every instance, the fall was preventable.3 The causes were reported by those who had a fall or witnessed a serious fall. Top categories include:

  • 27.4% Poor planning / lack of proper fall protection equipment
  • 21.7% Not using proper equipment
  • 17.1% Using equipment improperly
  • 14.8% Lack of training3

A deeper look into falls identified a few insights that may help construction businesses, jobsite supervisors and contractors think of new ways to drive awareness and share resources:

Experience –  It’s critical that construction employers pay close attention to the experience level of workers. Nationwide claims data shows construction workers with less than two years of experience with a company account for more than half (53%) of all reported construction fall claims from 2020-2023.4  This underscores the importance for businesses to ensure all workers, and especially those new to their company, are properly trained and equipped with the necessary protection measures to prevent such accidents.

Community – Falls have an outsized impact on the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community has strong representation in the construction industry accounting for 34.2% of total construction employment5, which is almost double their average employment (18.2%) across all other industries.6

For Hispanics, falls were a leading cause of fatal injuries in construction, just behind vehicle accidents.2 In 2020, the fatality rate for Hispanic construction workers in the U.S. was 41.6% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic workers, according to a report from the Center for Construction Research and Training.7 The injury rate was also 14.5% higher. Furthermore, the fatality rate for Hispanic workers increased by 46.5% from 2018 to 2020, while the rate for non-Hispanic workers decreased by 6.3%.7

Job classes – Falls impact all construction businesses but especially those in Specialty Trades. According to the US Bureau of labor statistics, more than half of all construction industry workers are employed in specialty trade contracting including classes of businesses such as roofing, electrical, plumbing, painting, etc.2

These specialty trades are having an outsized impact on falls. From 2011 to 2022, almost 70% of both nonfatal and fatal falls were attributed to workers in specialty trades (NAICS 238).8

Contractor size – Falls impact all sizes of business but especially businesses with fewer than 10 employees. From 2011 to 2022, 70% of fatal falls occurred with employees working for business with fewer than 10 employees.8

Larger businesses often have more formal fall protection programs in place and the resources to focus specifically on this issue. But this may be a question of awareness and access – small businesses can find resources for free that can help them implement formal programs. It starts with management but needs to get down to the supervisor and contractor making the right decisions on the jobsite.


The Center for Construction Research & Training study found that employees who believe fall protection was required by their employer were eight times more likely to use fall protection compared to those who did not.3

“Fostering a safety-conscious culture within construction businesses is paramount. When companies prioritize pre-planning for work and provide proper fall protection equipment, they significantly impact safety outcomes” said, Mark McGhiey, Sr. Associate Vice President, Nationwide Loss Control Services.

For construction businesses and the broader industry, Nationwide has developed an interactive Fall Protection Guide for Construction. The guide is designed to walk through fall protection requirements, outline roles and responsibilities, and provide turn-key solutions to document training, perform inspections and implement company/site specific fall protection plans.

To make the guide more accessible the entire program has been curated into Spanish with bi-lingual construction safety experts: Guía de protección contra caídas para la construcción.

And Nationwide is working with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to bring greater awareness to this issue for all contractors and with the Hispanic community specifically.

“As strong supporters and advocates of the construction industry, especially Hispanic construction companies, and workers, it’s crucial that we prioritize workforce safety,” said Synthia Jaramillo, senior vice president at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “The statistics paint a stark picture: falls continue to be a major threat, disproportionately affecting Hispanic workers. By fostering a robust safety culture, providing thorough training, and utilizing resources like Nationwide’s Fall Protection Guide, we can prevent tragic accidents and create a safer environment for everyone involved.”

Fall Protection Guide            Fall Protection Guide – Spanish version

Additionally, Nationwide Toolbox Talks is a source of jobsite risk management resources.

More construction-related safety resources can be found on Another way to commit to the reduction of falls is to participate in the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which is held every spring.