What are the “Fatal Four” and why do they matter?

This article looks at the “Fatal Four” in construction, which are the leading causes of death in the industry.

Construction is a notoriously dangerous profession and, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction workers account for about a fifth of all workplace fatalities in the United States. With construction workers routinely working in hazardous environments-such as at elevated heights or around dangerous machinery-it is perhaps unsurprising that construction deaths should be so overrepresented in overall workplace fatalities. However, the vast majority of such deaths are completely preventable. In fact, most fatal construction accidents are the result of what OSHA calls the "Fatal Four," and by eliminating the Fatal Four hundreds of lives could be saved each year.

What are the Fatal Four?

The Fatal Four are what OSHA refers to as the four leading causes of fatal injuries in the construction industry. The Fatal Four are, from deadliest to least deadly, falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and being caught in or between machines, objects, or materials. Together the fatal four account for over 60 percent of all construction worker fatalities.

Falls alone account for nearly 40 percent of construction worker deaths, while electrocutions and being struck by objects each account for just over eight percent of such deaths. Being caught in or between something, meanwhile, is responsible for over four percent of construction worker fatalities.

Eliminating the Fatal Four

The Fatal Four are important for two reasons: one, eliminating them would save the lives of 545 Americans each year, and, two, they are, for the most part, entirely preventable. It is hardly a coincidence that not only are falls the leading cause of deaths in the construction industry, but the leading OSHA citation for fiscal year 2015 was fall protection violations.

A big problem with preventing the Fatal Four is that workers often feel as though they are not free to speak up about possible safety violations. As Safety and Health Magazine points out, a workplace culture that encourages employees to come forward about safety concerns is much more likely to have a lower injury rate. Unfortunately, construction workers, especially young workers and workers who may have trouble speaking English (who are also the same types of workers who tend to suffer especially high injury rates), may fear repercussions if they bring such concerns to the attention of their employers.

Workplace injuries

Workers who have been hurt on the job often have the right to seek workers' compensation. A workplace injury can be a significant financial burden, not just because of the medical bills it may lead to, but because it could make it difficult to return to work. A workers' compensation attorney can fight for the rights of injured workers, including by helping them file a compensation claim and guiding them through the sometimes complicated claims process.