The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) Data Center study, “Fatal Falls from Roofs Among U.S. Construction Workers,” found that falls from roofs accounted for one-third of fall-related construction fatalities from 1992-2009. The findings suggest that workers employed by small establishments, residential construction workers, Hispanic workers and immigrant workers may face disproportionately high risks of roof fatalities.

A total of 20,498 occupational fatalities occurred in the construction industry from 1992-2009. Of these deaths, nearly one-third – 6,591 – were attributed to fall injuries, with 2,163 fatalities resulting from roof falls. Citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study points out that falls account for 76 percent of fatalities in the roofing industry, and workers in the roofing industry are three times more likely to experience fatal work-related injuries than other construction workers.

“While roof injuries occur among many construction occupations and sectors, this study confirmed that roofing and residential construction sectors have a much higher risk of falls from roofs than any other construction sectors. All roofing contractors should have a written fall protection program that specifies what type of fall protection is provided, provides adequate training for workers, and enforces fall protection programs,” the study states.

Key findings include:

  • Construction workers at a higher risk of roof fatalities include roofers, ironworkers and workers employed with roofing contractors or residential construction sites.
  • Fatal falls from roofs in residential construction sites were disproportionately high at 34 percent, considering that deaths from all causes in these construction sites made up only 18 percent of all construction fatalities.
  • Small establishments employing 10 or fewer employees (1–10 employees) had a disproportionate share of fatal falls, with 67 percent from roofs and 62 percent from other causes of falls.
  • While Hispanic workers accounted for only one-fourth of all construction fatalities, about 35 percent of fatal falls from roofs occurred among Hispanic workers.
  • Foreign-born workers were more likely to experience fatal falls from roofs (34 percent) than other types of fatalities.
  • Almost half of all roof fall fatalities occurred in the South.

Researchers stressed “it is imperative to enforce OSHA regulations” to reduce roof injuries, and pointed to OSHA’s document, Fall Protection in Residential Construction, as a useful guidance.

The study was published in the Journal of Safety Research. The authors analyzed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries and the Current Population Survey in their research.