Background: Falls are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the construction trades.
Methods: We identified a cohort of 16,215 active union carpenters, hours worked, and their workers' compensation claims for a 10-year period. The data on this well-defined cohort were used to describe their work-related falls; to define rates of injury and the associated costs; and to identify high-risk groups.
Results: Same level falls occurred at a rate of 1.8/200,000 hours worked; falls from elevations at a rate of 2.3/200,000 hours worked. These injuries resulted in direct payments of 0.30 dollars per hour of work or 2.40 dollars per 8-hr day. Mean costs per fall increased with increasing age. Age was not associated with risk of falls from elevations; younger carpenters had modestly reduced rates of falls from the same level. Rates of falls decreased with increasing time in the union. Carpenters whose usual work involved drywall installation or residential work were at highest risk.
Conclusions: Falls are a significant public health risk for carpenters and they are responsible for a significant burden of work-related injury costs. While there is a need for prevention of falls from elevations--through training, enforcement of fall protection regulations, improved safety climate, or engineering changes--there is also the need to prevent falls from lower elevations. Differences in risk likely reflect varying exposures and safety practices in different areas of carpentry, as well as training, experience, and job assignments based on longevity in the union.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.