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What Are America’s Most Dangerous Jobs in Construction?

We don’t always think that going to work is a dangerous thing, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.9 million workplace illnesses and injuries reported each year. Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, with lumber jobs and fishing topping the list. If you look at the industry that is responsible for the most deaths, however, you’ll find the dubious winner is construction.

Construction work is a physically demanding job. You’re on your feet most of the day in an environment full of debris and dangerous objects. Often, work is done high above the ground, and there is a risk of falling and sustaining serious injury. While all construction workers risk injury, some jobs are more dangerous than others. Most construction-related deaths are caused by falling or being struck by a heavy object, so jobs in high places or directly under a workstation are particularly dangerous.

Contact the construction accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by phone at (410) 694-7291 to talk about your case for free.

The Five Most Dangerous Construction Jobs

It should come as no surprise that construction can be a dangerous occupation: workers are exposed to temperature extremes, operate heavy machinery, and work from significant heights. Even in the construction industry, there is considerable variation between the most and least dangerous positions. Operating a crane, for example, is less dangerous than working on scaffolding. Here are the most dangerous jobs you can have in construction:

#1. Roofers

In the construction industry, roofers have the highest fatal injury and death rate, at a rate of 47.4 per 100,000 workers. That number has increased from 2013 when the rate was 40.5, and total deaths increased from 72 to 83. According to OSHA records, failing to have fall protection is the most frequent violation in construction, which helps explain why the injury rate is so high for these workers.

#2. Steel/ Frame Workers

Structural iron and steel workers in construction have one of the highest fatal injury rates, which comes as no surprise. These workers are frequently on scaffolding and complete most of their work high off the ground. Swinging steel bars present other hazards. The most common cause of construction death is falls, at 39%, and steel/structural frame workers make up a good portion of this number.

#3. First-Line Supervisors

Next in line for construction accidents are first-line supervisors and extraction workers, who frequently work close to the ground surrounded by heavy machinery. The fatal injury rate of these workers is 17.9. Given that the second most frequent cause of death in construction is being struck by an object, this makes sense. Even when wearing appropriate protection, heavy projectiles can cause head and spinal cord injuries.

#4. General Laborers

General laborers on the construction site are also vulnerable to serious injury, with a fatal injury rate of 16.9. These workers can be found doing virtually anything on a construction site, from working in trenches to scaling scaffolding. General laborers may become injured from falls, getting caught in tight spaces, or being struck by objects.

#5. Painters and Electricians

Painters and electricians virtually tie for fifth place, with fatal injury rates of 10.8 and 10.4, respectively. Painters, like roofers, must work from dangerous heights at times, making them prone to falls. Electricians face the threat of electrocution from improper wiring or a failure to communicate on the site. Painters, like roofers, must work from dangerous heights at times, making them prone to falls. Electricians face the threat of electrocution from improper wiring or a failure to communicate on the site.

What can I do to Reduce the Chances of a Construction Accident?

These professions are the most dangerous in construction. They are more likely to be injured in one of the accidents OSHA places among the “fatal four.” Members of these professions are more likely to sustain serious, even fatal, injuries than the rest of their peers. For this reason, they must closely observe safety precautions.

Always Wear Appropriate Protection

Always wear all the protective equipment you need for your job, including harnesses and helmets. A harness may very well be the only thing between you and a fatal decent to the pavement below. Additionally, make sure you have secured your harness properly so that it is working optimally.

Helmets protect from falling debris and other hazards. Wear them at all times when on a construction site.

Dress Appropriately for the Job

Workers should always wear a hard hat, sun protection, and heavy-duty boots that grip scaffolding.

Hard hats are mandatory on construction sites and for good reason. Falling objects of all sorts are bound to drop from high places on construction sites, so always wear your issued head protection. A hard hat can be the difference between an object bouncing off your head and that same object burying itself in your head.

In the sunnier months, make sure you have appropriate sunglasses. Not only is staring into the sun bad for your eyes, but it also makes it much harder to see. If you are in a high-up place at a construction site, this could cause you to miss an important detail happening around you, and you could get injured.

Sturdy boots and gloves are critical to any construction worker’s equipment. Construction sites are full of nasty objects littering the ground that could be stepped on. If your boots are not thick and protective enough, one of those objects, say a rusty nail, could go into your foot.

Stout gloves are also a must-have item for construction workers. Construction workers have to interact with many course surfaces and power tools. A thick glove can save your hands from sustaining severe injuries.

Pay Attention to Load Limits

Workers should always take note of the weight limits for scaffolding and never exceed them. They should also never use anything to extend their height on scaffolding, such as ladders and boxes.

Wear appropriate chemical protection at all times when working on a construction site. Potentially dangerous materials such as lead, asbestos, and silica require proper ventilation.

Follow Safety Precautions

Construction may be one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, but with some preparation, everyone can reduce their risk of injury. Make sure you are following any safety guidelines at all times. Employers must also take steps to ensure their work environment is as safe as possible. For example, many construction sites require safety nets to be in place to catch any objects that might fall from a great distance. If your employer is not compliant with safety standards for construction sites, you might have a claim against them.

The “Fatal Four” Construction Injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found four kinds of construction accidents to be more dangerous than all others. The so-called “fatal four” construction accidents are falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in between objects.


Falling from a great height is the leading cause of death among injured construction workers. According to OSHA, a fall hazard is anything that could make you lose your footing or balance and fall over. Some fall hazards might not be as dangerous as others. For example, tripping over a wooden beam is not as blatantly fatal as plummeting off of skyscraper scaffolding. Make sure any construction site you work at has adequate falling protections, such as guardrails and harnesses, to mitigate the risk of fall-related injuries.

Struck by an Object

Depending on the object, getting hit in the head can be fatal. “Struck by” accidents can range from getting hit by a hand tool to being swiped by an excavator arm from a construction vehicle. “Struck by” accidents can be mitigated by making sure everyone wears hard hats and other protection devices and by ensuring that trained, qualified individuals operate all heavy machinery.


Construction sites can have exposed electrical wires as well as lots of high-voltage equipment. Being electrocuted is a very real risk while doing construction work. Burns, tissue damage, and organ failure can all result from exposure to high voltage. Moreover, unattended electrical utilities can come into contact with other substances and cause a fire or explosion.

Be on the lookout for overhead and buried power lines, and if you are working closely around electrical equipment, make sure to wear the proper insulating safety gear.

Caught In or Between Objects

Although this may sound like getting struck by an object, OSHA distinguishes between injuries from getting struck by something and getting caught in something. For example, having a hammer fall on your head is getting struck by something. Getting your hand stuck in a belt sander is getting caught in something.

To avoid getting caught or stuck in something on a construction site, be mindful of unprotected power tools and other heavy machinery. If demolition work is being done, stand well away from the work area so that you are not trapped underneath it if it collapses.

Call Our Construction Accident Lawyers Today

Call the construction accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review.