Posted on: May 30, 2023

High-rise Building Safety: Preventing Skyscraper Worker Deaths

Skyscraper Deaths

In recent years, the construction industry has seen an uptick in the number of high-rise buildings being built. While these towering structures are awe-inspiring engineering feats, they pose a significant safety risk for the workers who build and maintain them. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls from elevation are the leading cause of death among construction workers, and high-rise buildings account for a disproportionate number of these fatalities. 

In this blog, we will explore the various safety measures that can be implemented to prevent worker deaths in skyscrapers, including proper training and equipment. We will also discuss the importance of a culture of safety among construction companies and their workers. 

What's the Definition of a High-Rise Building? 

A high-rise building is a tall building with multiple floors or levels, typically 12 stories or more. The exact height that qualifies a building as a high-rise can vary depending on the context and location. Still, generally, a building that rises above the surrounding buildings and significantly impacts the city’s skyline is considered a high-rise. 

These buildings often require specialized construction techniques and safety measures due to their height and complexity. High-rise buildings can be used for various purposes, including residential, commercial, and office spaces, and they are found in many major cities worldwide. 

Skyscraper Worker Deaths 

Skyscraper worker deaths refer to fatal accidents or incidents that occur during the construction or maintenance of a high-rise building, such as a skyscraper. Due to the nature of the work involved, working on high-rise buildings can be extremely dangerous, and workers are at risk of falls, electrical shocks, and other accidents. 

Skyscraper worker deaths can occur during the following: 

  1. The construction phase: when workers are building the steel frame or pouring concrete 
  2. The maintenance phase: when workers are performing repairs or renovations on the building 

These deaths can be caused by a variety of factors, including inadequate safety measures, equipment failure, and human error.

Skyscraper worker deaths are a serious concern, and efforts are continually being made to improve safety measures and prevent accidents. Some of the safety measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of fatalities and injuries on high-rise construction sites include: 

  • Proper safety training 
  • The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)  
  • The implementation of fall protection systems and emergency response plans 

We’ll go into further detail about safety measures later.  

How Many People Died Building the Empire State Building? 

During the construction of the Empire State Building, which took place from 1930 to 1931, five workers lost their lives. These deaths occurred during various stages of construction, including: 

  • The installation of the building's steel frame 
  • The construction of its masonry exterior 
  • The installation of its elevators 

Despite the dangers inherent in such a massive construction project, the Empire State Building was built in just over a year, an impressive feat that was made possible by the hard work and dedication of its construction workers. 

Today, the Empire State Building stands as an iconic symbol of New York City and a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance. 

Deadliest Construction Projects 

Several construction projects worldwide throughout history have resulted in a significant loss of life. Here are a few examples:

1. The Panama Canal 

The construction of the Panama Canal, which took place from 1904 to 1914, resulted in an estimated 27,500 deaths. Workers faced extreme heat, disease, and dangerous working conditions while digging the canal.

2. The Hoover Dam 

The construction of the Hoover Dam, which took place from 1931 to 1936, resulted in the deaths of 96 workers. Many workers were killed by falls or from being struck by heavy equipment during the construction process.

3. The World Trade Center 

The construction of the original World Trade Center in New York City, completed in 1973, resulted in the deaths of 60 workers. Several workers were killed during the construction of the towers, including a man who fell 55 stories to his death.

4. The Burj Khalifa 

The construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, completed in 2010, resulted in several deaths. The exact number is unknown, but it is estimated that around 10 workers died during the construction process. 

These construction projects, and others like them, remind us of the risks workers take to build the structures that shape our world.

Fire in High-Rise Buildings 

Fires in high-rise buildings can be particularly dangerous due to the height and complexity of the building. Whether working or living in a high-rise building, you need to be prepared in the event of a fire

To prepare for a fire in a high-rise building, here are some important steps to follow:

  • Get familiar with the building evacuation plan and the fire safety measures present in a building, especially the exit locations. 
  • Practice your evacuation route and ensure that no obstructions block your path. 
  • Refrain from wedging or holding open stairway or corridor doors. 
  • Remember to close doors behind you when exiting a room. 
  • If you encounter non-operational or damaged fire protection features, such as an automatic door closer, report them immediately. 
  • Do not tamper with any life safety devices. 

If a fire occurs, remain composed and follow the fire safety plan and call 911 for emergency assistance. 

By being prepared and following these steps, you can increase your chances of safely evacuating a high-rise building in the event of a fire. 

High-Rise Buildings Safety Measures 

Working on a high-rise construction site can be extremely dangerous due to the height, complexity, and nature of the work involved. To ensure the safety of workers on high-rise construction sites, several safety measures should be in place. 

Here are some examples of high-rise buildings' safety measures to follow. 

Proper Training 

Workers should receive comprehensive training on the safe operation of equipment, as well as how to work safely at height. This training should be ongoing and regularly refreshed to ensure that workers are updated with the latest safety protocols. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Workers should be required to wear appropriate PPE, including hard hats, safety harnesses, and non-slip shoes.

Fall Protection Systems 

High-rise construction sites should have appropriate fall protection systems in place, such as guardrails, safety nets, and anchored lifelines, to prevent falls from height. 

Clear Signage

Clear signage can effectively communicate safety information to workers on high-rise construction sites. This information can include warnings about hazards, safety procedures, and instructions on the use of safety equipment.

Regular Equipment Inspections 

All equipment used on a high-rise construction site should be inspected regularly to ensure that it is in good working order and safe to use.

Emergency Response Plan 

High-rise construction sites should have a well-defined emergency response plan in place in case of accidents or other emergencies.

Monitoring Weather Conditions 

Weather conditions can significantly impact the safety of high-rise construction sites. Workers should monitor weather conditions, such as high winds or thunderstorms, and take appropriate action to ensure their safety. 

By implementing these safety measures while working in a high-rise building, workers can reduce the risk of injury or death and create a safe working environment on high-rise construction sites. 

Safety Training for Construction Workers 

Construction workers face a variety of hazards and risks while working on high-rise buildings, which is why safety training is crucial to prevent accidents and injuries. 

As an OSHA-authorized online training provider for over 20 years, we offer OSHA 10 and 30 courses, as well as training on a wide range of construction safety topics. Our training programs will put your mind at ease, knowing that you are well-prepared and your documentation is in order.

In addition, we offer other EHS training options, such as HAZWOPER, NYC SST, and more. Look at our extensive course catalog to see how we can assist you in improving your training programs.