The OSHA Fatal Four

By Alana Smart / August 11, 2021 / Blog ,

The OSHA Fatal Four

In the construction industry, the most common causes of workplace fatalities are called the “Fatal Four” or “Focus Four Hazards”.  These four leading causes of fatalities result in approximately 545 construction worker deaths in the United States each year. The total number of these construction fatalities have steadily risen over the past few years, after a brief decline in 2017.



Falls are by far the most common cause of construction worker fatalities, accounting for a whopping 36% in 2019. In construction, fall protection is required for any employee working at a height of six feet or more above lower level or when working at any height above dangerous machinery or equipment. Falls can occur by:

  • Scaffolding collapses
  • Improper use of ladders
  • Unstable Walkways
  • Lack of appropriate signage
  • Absence of guardrails


Struck by Objects

Struck by injuries account for 10% of construction worker fatalities. They occur from forcible impact between the worker and an object or equipment. OSHA requires that employees are provided with appropriate PPE which meets the American National Standard Institutes (ANSI) standards. Additionally, all employees should receive the appropriate on the job training. Struck by object situations include:

  • Falling debris
  • Flying objects
  • Swinging objects
  • Rolling objects



Fatalities due to electrocution account for 9%. Before starting work, employees should locate and identify utilities, maintain a safe distance from power lines, and not use portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double insulated. Common causes of workplace electrocutions are:

  • Power lines
  • Defective tools or equipment
  • Exposed wires
  • Contact between water and electrical systems


Caught Between Objects

A worker being caught, squeezed, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of equipment is responsible for 2% of the fatalities. These situations often happen suddenly and are not anticipated. It is important to keep body parts out of pinch points and not to work in a hurry.  Some situations that may happen are:

  • Equipment rollovers
  • Unguarded machinery
  • Building cave-ins
  • Trench collapses


Nearly all incidents are preventable with proper planning. The key to keeping your workers safe is training, providing appropriate safety equipment, establishing safety policies, and ensuring that employees are healthy and fit to work. All of these components go a long way to create and maintain a safe workplace with reduced accidents.


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