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Falls are a hazard found in many work settings. A fall can occur during walking or climbing a ladder to change a light fixture, or as a result of a complex series of events affecting an ironworker 80 feet above the ground.

Fast Facts

Job Hazards

Circumstances associated with fall incidents in the work environment frequently involve:

  • Slippery, cluttered, or unstable walking/working surfaces
  • Unprotected edges
  • Floor holes and wall openings
  • Unsafely positioned ladders
  • Misused fall protection

How big of an issue are falls in the workplace?

Based on 2014 published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 261,930 private industry and state and local government workers missed one or more days of work due to injuries from falls on the same level or to lower levels1, and 798 workers died from such falls2.

The construction industry experienced the highest frequency of fall-related deaths, while the highest counts of nonfatal fall injuries continue to be associated with the health services and the wholesale and retail industries. Particularly at risk of fall injuries are those working in:

  • Healthcare support
  • Building cleaning and maintenance
  • Transportation and material moving
  • Construction and extraction occupations

Fall injuries create a considerable financial burden: workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at $70 billion annually in the United Sates [3]. Many other countries face similar challenges in the workplace. In fact, the international public health community has a strong interest in developing strategies to reduce the toll of fall injuries.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses: Private Industry, State Government, Local Government

2Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

3NSC [2002]. Report on injuries in America 2002. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council.

What can be done to prevent work-related falls?

Federal regulations and industry consensus standards provide specific measures and performance-based recommendations for fall prevention and protection. However, persistent unsafe practices and low safety culture across many industries define steady fall injury rates year after year.

Successful reduction of fall injury and death rates requires continued concerted efforts of regulators and industry leaders, professional associations and labor unions, employers and employees, safety professionals and researchers in enhancing the work environment, implementing new effective fall prevention and protection technologies, and improving the work safety culture through educating the workforce. As a leader in occupational safety research, NIOSH plays a key role in these complex fall-injury prevention efforts.

NIOSH Ladder Safety App

Now featuring step ladders!

iOS and Android Mobile Devices Climbing for work? Get user-friendly guides and tools for extension and step ladder selection and safe use.

Available in English and Spanish (adaptive to which language is set on your device).

NIOSH Research Highlight

Planning and Guidance of Fall-Related Research at NIOSH

NIOSH fall-injury prevention research strategic planning and goal setting takes into consideration the magnitude or emergence of the problem as evidenced by data, immediacy of need expressed by stakeholders, resources and expertise in the goal area, current research, strength of partnerships in current research, and status and momentum on the course of research-to-practice. The strategic planning process is enhanced with input from the National Academy of Sciences program review.

Program contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910;