Construction’s “Fatal Four” – Tips for Prevention

The fatal four in construction are four areas of extreme danger for construction workers. In fact, the fatal four are the most common ways that fatalities occur in the construction industry.

It’s important to be aware of the fatal four and take steps to minimize the possibility of an accident. When accidents happen, employers and other third parties may have legal liability to victims and their families. Our Denver workers’ compensation attorneys explain the fatal four.

What Is the Fatal Four in Construction?

The fatal four in construction is the name for the most common causes of fatalities in the construction industry. Injuries in the construction industry happen most frequently because of falls, electrocution, blunt force trauma, and getting caught between objects. The fatal four is the name used in hopes of raising awareness and preventing accidents.

What Are the Four High Hazard Areas?

The four high hazard areas are:

  1. Falls – When the worker falls from an elevated surface, like a ladder or scaffolding, to a lower surface.
  2. Electrocution – Accidental contact with an electrical current can cause electrocution.
  3. Struck by object – Getting hit by an object is a serious danger for any construction worker, whether it’s equipment, materials, or debris.
  4. Caught between – If a worker gets caught between equipment or materials, they may suffer a serious or fatal injury.

What Makes up OSHA’s Focus Four Highest Risk Hazards?

What makes up OSHA’s focus four highest risk hazards are falling, electrocution, getting hit by an object, and getting caught between objects. OSHA’s focus four draws awareness to these common causes of death to encourage employers and workers to take measures for safety. OSHA identifies these four dangers as presenting the highest risk to workers in construction industries.

Fatal Four Event

When a fatal four event occurs, the family of the victim may deserve financial compensation. The victim’s family may claim death benefits through the workers’ compensation system. Although these benefits can be quite substantial, a fatal four event may also qualify for a traditional negligence claim that can provide more significant compensation. While compensation for a fatal four event cannot bring a loved one back, it can provide justice and hold others accountable for the factors that lead up to the accident.

OSHA Focus Four Definition

The OSHA focus four is an awareness campaign for the construction industry. [1] The definition of the OSHA focus four is an effort by OSHA officials to raise public awareness of the most significant risks posed to construction workers. By helping everyone in the construction industry understand the potential risks associated with construction, they hope to decrease injuries and fatalities in the industry.

Fatal Four Training

Fatal four training can be instrumental in preventing fatal four accidents. Understanding the risks allows managers and workers to assess potential hazards and take action before accidents occur. Here are some measures that may help prevent fatal four accidents:

  • Guardrails and handrails for walking on dangerous or elevated surfaces
  • Harnesses for working in areas where a person can fall
  • Ladder safety – Ladder safety should include testing a ladder to ensure that it’s secure before proceeding
  • Scaffolding – It’s important to set up scaffolding in a way that’s secure and complies with safety protocols
  • Ensure that all floor openings are covered
  • Personal protective equipment – Each worker should always have the equipment that they need to perform their job safely. Hard hats, goggles, safety vests, and gloves should be standard equipment whenever necessary.
  • Support systems for weak and unstable objects
  • Locate and identify utilities before beginning work
  • Interrupt power sources before working

When determining what safety measures to take, it’s important to be aware of federal, state, and local regulations that apply. It’s also important to perform a risk assessment given the specific work that the crew is performing. A safety plan should address risks that are specific to the task.

Finally, a safety plan is only effective if it’s implemented. Any safety plan must include measures to train staff. There should be goals for enforcement as well as measures to see that safety procedures are followed. Ultimately, following the plan is the only way that it can be effective.

Fatal Four Construction Accidents

Fatal four accidents are the most common types of construction accidents. According to OSHA, as many as 38.7 percent of construction-related deaths are caused by falls. [2] Working on an elevated surface is often a necessary part of working in the construction industry. However, there are steps that workers can take, such as testing ladders, using harnesses, and using guardrails that can ensure safety.

Electrocution is another one of the fatal four construction accidents. It’s essential to check that power sources are located and turned off before work begins. Struck by objects and caught between accidents can be reduced by establishing clear communication for all workers. In addition, workers should not be left alone in dangerous areas where others cannot observe them and communicate with them. If there is a problem, another worker should be close by to identify the danger and take corrective measures as soon as possible.

Legal Liability for Fatal Four Accidents

If a fatal four accident occurs, surviving family members may have options for financial compensation. In almost all construction accident cases, workers’ compensation is available to the victim’s family. The amount of workers’ compensation is substantial, and it’s important to work with an experienced accident attorney to claim the maximum amount of workers’ compensation. In addition, the business may have liability insurance that can cover losses if workers’ compensation doesn’t apply.

Along with workers’ compensation, third parties may have legal liability when a fatal accident occurs. The construction industry often relies on contractors to complete work. Because of the nature and prevalence of contractors in construction work, a traditional legal claim may be available to family members when a fatal four accident occurs. Our attorneys can help you explore all of your options for compensation.

Denver Attorneys for Construction Accidents

If you or a loved one has been in a construction accident, contact our Denver attorneys for your free consultation.


[1] Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. Outreach Training Program, Construction Focus Four. Retrieved 12 November 2019 from https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction/focus_four/

[2] Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. Fall Protection, Construction Standards and Resources. Retrieved 12 November 2019 from  https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/construction.html

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