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The Fatal Four on Construction Sites

October 20, 2021Firm News

The “fatal four” is the construction industry’s term for the following four types of accidents that are the leading causes of worker fatalities. They are typically responsible for over half of all construction worker deaths each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 


Falls are the primary cause of worker deaths in construction, responsible for more than one in three fatalities in 2019 (36.4%). When workers do survive a fall, they often face long-term disability. Despite stricter safety regulations and precautions, construction sites are full of hazards that can lead to fall accidents, especially when working at height. 

To prevent falls, employers must supply, and workers must use proper work gear and fall prevention equipment, such as safety harnesses, handrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, perimeter protection, covered and secure floor openings, etc. 

Struck by an Object

“Struck-by” injuries are the third leading cause of construction worker fatalities (15.4%). These accidents often happen when a worker comes into contact with:

  • Falling objects, such as debris from a work site above. 
  • Swinging objects, such as materials suspended from a crane.
  • Flying objects, such as nail gun discharges or thrown tools. 
  • Rolling objects, such as a vehicle or heavy equipment while it’s in motion.

Workers lacking training or experience with equipment and heavy machinery are often to blame for these accidents— for example, failing to properly secure job site materials, lifting and swinging materials in the wrong direction, failing to use a parking brake, or reverse alarms on a vehicle, etc.) Employers should warn workers of areas that have a higher risk of struck-by accidents occurring, limit access, and provide proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 


Electrocutions are the second most common cause of construction fatalities (7.2%). They occur when workers are exposed to lethal amounts of electrical energy. Common causes include contact with energized sources, improper extension cord use, contact with live overhead power lines, and failing to shut off power sources before performing their work. Electrocutions can result in extensive burns or even paralysis if a worker survives. In some cases, a fire or explosion may also occur, leading to further injuries or deaths. 

An assured equipment grounding conductor program to cover temporary receptacles, equipment, and power cords should be established to prevent electrocutions. In addition, detailed records of inspections and tests.  


The final “fatal four” construction accident is when workers get caught in or between objects, causing 5.4% of fatal accidents. A death can occur when a worker’s body or a part of their body is trapped, crushed, compressed, squeezed, or pinched between two or more objects. Two common examples of how these accidents happen are when loose clothing gets caught in moving parts or when safety guards are missing or have been intentionally removed. 

Workers should not be allowed to place themselves between an immovable object such as a wall and a moving vehicle, overload equipment, or operate heavy machinery without a seatbelt or safety restraints. Contact our St. Louis personal injury attorneys today. 

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