Fatal Risks in Construction

Trends in Fatalities

Every year in Australia, approximately 30 people are killed in the construction industry and according to SafeWork Australia, there are an astounding 12,500 serious injuries in the Australian construction industry every year.

Understanding the causes of fatalities

In the 12 years between 2003 and 2014, there were 417 construction workers killed at work. Falls from a Height were the single biggest category, killing 117 workers. Breaking this down further, we can see three main causes of falls:

  • Falls from building structures – mainly roofs – lead to 54 deaths
  • Falls from ladders accounted for 28 deaths, half of which were a fall of less than four metres.
  • Falls from Scaffold (12 deaths)

The table below, provided by SafeWork Australia shows all categories :

Prevention Through Planning

Adams & Dalton in their article “Prevention through Planning” (Professional Safety . March 2018) analysed the causes of these falls in more detail and found four common situations that lead to a fall from height:

  1. Loss of balance near an unprotected edge
  2. Lack of awareness of an opening or unprotected edge
  3. Task performance places a worker in a fall-permiting situation
  4. Mechanical failure of a supporting structure

Their research also identified 5 strategies that can be employed to minimise the risks of falls:

Strategy 1 : Bring Down The Work, by building sub-assemblies on the ground, installing meters and guages so that they can be read remotely, and routing piping so that valves can be serviced on the ground

Strategy 2: Minimize time required at Elevation – as greater energy is typically required to do the same tasksin an elevated position

Strategy 3: Make Elevated Work Easier by considering design that will consider ergonomic principles, minimize the need for over – exertion, provide safe and secure footing, and aoid taks that require prolonged holding of an object.

Strategy 4: Select the Best means of Elevation for the Task

Strategy 5: Ensure fall arrest systems are working effectively.


Falls from a height are the biggest killers of construction workers worldwide and falls are often due to that momentary lapse or slip that can affect anyone. However by building in safety at the design phase and working closely with the site leadership and construction teams many of the risks can be minimized.

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