2020 Fatalities for US Roofers Increased 15% as Solar Roof Installations Increase

In the 2020 US Bureau of Labor National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, the data shows roofers accounted for 111 of the 5,333 fatal injuries that occurred in 2019. This is up 15% from 2018’s figure of 96.

In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that roofing contractors had a work fatality rate more than 10 times the average rate of work fatalities per year in 2018.

In 2019, this was 51.5 fatal injuries for every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. By comparison, the average rate across all occupations is 3.5.

The 2020 BLS’ report shows roofer fatal injury rate of 54 per 100,000 workers, up from 51.5 — an increase of nearly 5%. The average rate across all occupations is 3.5, meaning roofing’s fatality rate is roughly 15 times higher than the average.

In roofing, the most common cause of injuries and deaths are fall-related incidents, and is the most cited OSHA violation. According to BLS, 93 of the 111 roofing fatalities were caused by a fall, slip or trip incident. In total, 880 of the deaths in 2019 were due to a fall, slip or trip, an 11% increase from 791.

In 2019, the U.S. had more than two million total solar panel installations. This was three years after surpassing one million solar panel installations, which took 40 years to accomplish.

The US is expected to pass three million total solar installations in 2021 and will go over four million solar panel installations in 2023.

The US is installing about 500,000 solar roofs every year.

In 2020, 912,000 single-family homes completed in the USA and 375,000 multifamily units completed in 2020.

I could not find a report that breaks out roofing deaths that are solar roof, solar panel related and those that are regular roofing work. However, this will be large number statistics, where the number of accidents and deaths for solar roof would be a fraction of the total roof work. This would need to include not just new roof but re-roof or installation of solar panels on old roofs and maintenance work. In 2019, it was about 360,000 solar roof-related installations out of about 1 million new roofs. About 7% of houses are re-roofed each year. This re-roofing fraction stays relatively consistent based upon most roofs lasting 20-30 years. There are 85 million detached houses in the USA and about 20 million multi-unit buildings. There are also commercial buildings. New houses seem to be about 15% of the overall roofing work.

Solar roofs are about 35-40% of new houses and will be about 50% in 2022. California and some other states have mandated that all new houses will have solar. By about 2025, solar will be on all new houses in the USA. Solar-related roofing work for older roofs is about 2% of the roofing work. 4 million roofs by 2024 would be about 5% of residential buildings in the USA.

Solar panel roof paneling should have similar falling risks as regular roof work. This would only be different if the new solar roofing companies have and enforce higher safety standards. I believe Tesla does require its roofing contractors to use safety gear. Tesla currently has a tiny fraction of the solar market.

Solar panel work would have falling risk and higher electrical shock risks. A regular roof would only have electrical risks from overhead power lines.

A rough estimate is that solar roof work was 6-10% of overall roofing work in 2019 and this will increase to 15% by 2025. This would also be the expected share of roofing fatalities.

My expectation is that roofing work outside the USA would have higher fatality rates because of more lax safety regulations. Global roofing work is about 10 times higher than the USA. There are 20 times as many people outside the USA but there are fewer buildings with higher household density. The rate of solar on roofs outside the USA is less. There would be less transparent reporting of workplace accidents in many less developed countries.

If the solar industry doubles the volume of solar work by 2030, then unless roofing safety standards and safety system effectiveness is massively increased then solar would be responsible for half of the roofing deaths. If solar is placed on all new and old roofs by 2040-2050, then almost all roofing work accidents would by solar panel-related accidents.

Currently, 2 million solar roofs that average 6 kw of power generation would be 12 gigawatts of solar power. This would generate about 12 terawatt hours of power each year. 10% of the 111 deaths in roofing deaths in 2020 is 11 solar roofing related deaths in 2020. This would be just short of 1 solar roofing death per 1 terawatt hour.

In 2012, there are sources that calculate 0.44 deaths per terawatt hour for solar from roofs. This is higher than 0.09 deaths per terawatt hour from nuclear and 0.15 deaths per terawatt hour from wind.

Solar from roofing is 5 times deadlier than nuclear but is about 4 times safer than hydro.

SOURCES- BLS, Census, Roof Contractor
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

63 thoughts on “2020 Fatalities for US Roofers Increased 15% as Solar Roof Installations Increase”

  1. July 20220 EU has now declared gas and nucleaar green. You can certainly see that politics and war have a way of changing perceptions. Since fossil fuels currently mine, transport, and make most everything we use on earth it makes sense now to use as much Natural Gas as possible to cut emmisions and then convert entirely to nuclear small modular reactors as soon as possible – now that US DoE has proclaimed that sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere is its number one goal. Only nuclear (due to its energy density) can continuously provide non-carbon power to an every expanding power need while at the same time sucking CO2 out of the biosphere far faster than we are putting it in now.

  2. With coal are you just counting miners or are you counting people who breathe the polluted air because I think the numbers are much greater than that.

  3. Mortality rate (2012) per terawatt-hour

    Coal : 100,000
    Oil : 36,000
    Natural Gas : 4,000
    Hydro : 1400
    Rooftop Solar : 440
    Wind : 150
    Nuclear : 90

  4. There is always the idiot shooting someone else's foot to the roof. And there are the heatstroke injuries.
    Falls from the second story and above would still cause major injuries. And bubble wrap will not prevent people from being impaled on a spiky fence/gate.
    Scaffolding sounds pretty good…actually…unless it tips over.

  5. It says "500 lb capacity". I would hope there is a way to make it flat like it is at high noon, when there are heavy winds. That should minimize risk of damage. Flat is not great for winds when it is a roof, but it is less of a concern for this, as the pressure under the surface should be close to the same above the surface. What makes roofs come off is low pressure on the top surface of the roof relative to the pressure in the house.
    Many modern solar panels are not very heavy.

  6. I really hope you are investing in LPP fusion because they are one of two fusion companies that will not produce any long lived radioactive waste.

    Otherwise you're just another anonymous commenter telling radiation ghost stories.

    (And no TAE doesn't count).

  7. The chart for US PV installations shows that we stopped exponential EV installation growth around Q2 of 2016.

  8. A human life is only worth about $4 million. It pales in comparison to the cost of a meltdown. I am not a fan of coal.

    Short term the obvious solution is renewable. It is cheap and technically feasible.

  9. A ridiculous amount of money to lose over a very stupid design error, sure. (If they hadn't put the emergency generator in the basement, OR had designed things so you could tap emergency power off the reactor itself, everything would have been fine.) But coal kills more people on an average day than nuclear kills on its worst days.

    Nuclear may have some problems, especially given the insane regulations imposed by people who want to kill it off, but being DANGEROUS isn't one of them.

  10. Fukishima. Lost of 4 reactors and the power plants. Replacement value $5-10 Billion each. Clean up and containment is going to cost over $100 Billion. Loss of assets and land. Another $100 Billion. A ridiculous amount of money. And we aren't even talking about how much is cost to replace the power from all of the nuclear power plants that were shutdown and the cost to remediated them.

    The sad thing is that you can build nuclear power plants that are impossible to meltdown.

  11. I wonder what the death split is between solar retrofits and new house builds though? Would a new build be safer generally due to active construction related scaffolding or roof equipment being available, or could it be the reverse, too much activity leading to more oversights which lead to deaths?

  12. New Zealand requires scaffolding barriers for roofing work, that includes solar panel installation. While its greatly expanded the scaffolding erection companies, the death and injury toll has been reduced to almost nothing, a major gain in human terms.

  13. That is a nice actuator for the price. Being 24-36 VDC is great for stand alone, but it is a pain if your system is the usual net metered. How many square meters of array do you think these could handle in an area with frequent thunderstorms?

  14. I'd probably skip the tracker myself and just build a larger shade structure, just to avoid moving parts. But that would be a worthwhile consideration for people on small urban lots.

    You could also compromise a bit and use a one axis tracker instead of a two axis. Stretch a line of two or three panels between two poles and have the set pivot in a row. You'd forgo the seasonal benefits but keep the daily benefits.

    But tracker or no, I completely agree with all your other points. I know there's a few people without a yard to speak of, but why should every solar installer follow the exact same business model? There's a very large market of people with yards who want shade structures. This fixation with putting them on rooftops is bizarre, and clearly people will regret it later when other options emerge.

  15. As I recall, TMI didn't even exceed its monthly radiation allowance. It just got the majority of it in a few hours instead of spread out.

  16. You'll frequently find that, in these sorts of pictures, the people aren't actually the workers, they're somebody else the photographer thought more photogenic. That at least has been my experience when I've seen photos taken for company brochures and the like. They kick out the real employees and swap in models.

    It's actually kind of annoying to be required to set up some work on your work station, and then have a model sit at your desk, grab your mouse, and look chipper and attractive.

  17. I’ve only seen pole mounted arrays where people have an abundance of land (my preferred plant nursery) or a home were it’s physically impossible to mount panels. Perhaps one installation was an aesthetic consideration in a expensive neighborhood, where the owner didn’t want it on the house but had a downhill portion of land where he could tuck them out of sight on pole arrays.

  18. It's not the radiation or risks that are the problems of fission. It's biggest sins are that it is cheap and reliable. Being the only viable threat to burning oil and coal. Cheap energy is also the nemesis of the dystopic future advocated by a lot of greens. The oil producers and environmentalists forming an unholy alliance with the former financing the latter. Fusion would probably suffer from the exact same opposition. It's not like the arguments against fission are based on data. Same category as antivaxing and 5G.
    Every day that we don't have nuclear the alternatives kill more people than nuclear in a hundred years.
    I hope you have better judgment in other areas of your life.

  19. Thanks for the additional information. Love your work. I drop by the site daily.
    Unfortunately the U.S. BLS has its own number and name for Solar Installers called "47-2231 Solar Photovoltaic Installers". They are not categorized as roofers by the BLS.
    To find the number of deaths of Solar Photovoltaic Installers on the BLS website start with the webpage https://data.bls.gov/gqt/InitialPage .
    Then check the box titled " Fatal Injuries Numbers" then continue
    Then check the year and continue
    Then all of U.S. the years and then continue
    Then "Characteristic type" choose "Occupation" from the drop down menu and select "name or description" from the next drop down and then continue
    Then scroll down to Solar Photovoltaic Installers 47 2331 . Then "all ownerships" and continue.
    Then it gives you the choice of seeing the information as an html or excel table.
    Click on that and good luck. I would post the info here but the website fails every time with an error message and a request to start over. The information is there, I just cant get to it.
    The important part is that you can not derive deaths of Solar Photovoltaic Installers (BLS#472331) from BLS Death/Injury numbers on Roofers (BLS#472181). The BLS clearly defines these as different occupations with different safety rates.

  20. Sorry, I'll wait for fusion even if it's 10 years out (TM) rather than poison us all with radiation and waste with fission. Nuclear is not needed with Solar and Hydrogen storage systems. We have vast sun energy in our deserts that can be utilized and sent to hydrogen extraction from H2O and then used to create energy at night using generators. The science is there today.

  21. The roofer in the background of the photo has no work gloves, so is either inexperienced or cavalier. This argues for a substandard worker regarding safety and best practices. All homes and multi-unit buildings built now should have solar PV arrays installed immediately when built or solar PV tiles. Soon, your car's electric battery will be able to store electricity for your house or the grid (V2G: Vehicle-to-Grid) for "leveling out the duck curve" from balancing the excess solar PV electricity made during midday and the heavy usage before and after dinnertime, i.e., load leveling and ramp-rate control. Other, robust grid level energy storage are on a near timeline, including green, electrolytic hydrogen for long-term storage, heavy-duty transportation and industrial use.

  22. The Three Mile Island partial meltdown had a small release that had zero long term health consequences. Fukushima had just 1 death due to radiation and that was 3 worst case scenario meltdowns. Gas and coal have deaths every day. France has been what 70+% nuclear for decades with no issues? It is like saying if you have a steam locomotive, it is just a mater of time until you have a boiler explosion and kill 50 people. Any steam locomotive could explode under the right conditions…but with competent operation, it just does not happen.
    There were 3 facilities that had meltdowns. In 2 you have second string people monkeying around early in the AM. The third was a 9+ earthquake, and some poor planning.

  23. I have never seen a worker secured to the roof in San Diego. Maybe they do if the angle is crazy, but most people don't build that way around here.

  24. I have considered pole mounted on a roof. It looses many of the advantages, and introduces new risks, like high winds not only damaging your array but destroying your roof structure in the process. Flat roof combined with short pole solar might work.

  25. Expensive and not that safe. Has the potential to be cheaper and safer but no one with money seems to be interested in doing the R&D.

  26. Economies of scale. Almost no home solar companies are installing these things. And the only ones I have seen close to what I envision are power company installations. The pole mounted ones I see on residential are generally on short poles well away from the house and are rectangular, and do not leave useful space under them. And the actuators don't wear out for a very long time if they are quality. I still have a large heavy C-band satellite dish that will still move…though there is nothing to watch. I put that in when I was a teen. It is on a 20 foot pole though 5 1/2 feet or so of that is underground in concrete. And actuators are not expensive to replace…roughly $100-150. Random listing: https://www.ebay.com/p/1954106585?iid=271574942987
    No reason any of the system has to be expensive. Tracking is very simple electronics. A frame need not be any more expensive than those storage rack they sell at Costco. And they often sell the nice Whalen ones for $135. https://www.whalenfurniture.com/product/industrial-rack-with-interlocking-wire-deck/
    2-axis tracking is best, but there is not a massive difference.
    And most of these roof installations involve a lot of metal already.
    I think pole mounted can actually be cheaper.

  27. At least in the US, most homes do have the space. The new tract homes may not. And there are some cities like San Francisco that are very limited on land, so generally have small yards, but those are the exception rather than the rule. I was also thinking that a home could share a system with a neighbor over the fence. Then the pole can be put on the property line and there should be enough room even in most of the smaller lots.
    Most of the small lot homes have HOAs that won't allow anything anyway…roof solar or pole…requiring State law to override.
    Also, as I said, the array does not have to be as large, because it works better.

  28. The most dangerous thing about nuclear plants is the electricity itself. Electrocutions do happen.

  29. Panels are now so cheap, trackers are often not worth it. They do wear out, and they are far from cheap. If you are off grid, the extended hours of high output in the summer make a big difference, but if you have net metering, you might do better to spend your money buying more panels.

  30. The whole point is how safe nuclear power is, in addition it is the only low Carbon source that is continuous(hydro is not being deployed in most of the world). We can install solar on the ground, places like California and Germany would rather burn coal and gas.

  31. Yes, but I do not believe most families have a large enough yard that they could mount up a useful area of solar panels there, so those people are reduced to putting the panels on top of their roofs. Maybe on a pole mounted on top of the roof?

  32. As a Yank, I think you call us, from Texas, I have little BBC knowledge. If like the "National" stuff here, what did you expect from the gov? Anyway, the point you make about scale is true, but quite problematic. It will turn off the very audience we need the most, those who really really care about climate and Earth bigger picture. All C burnings are small if you break them up into small pieces. The big problem with the scale point is that we have so much better to say with Space that bringing up a weak point misses the opportunity. O'Neill and Space Solar Power ARE the hope, not the problem! Space IS Green, certainly better than staying on Earth with our stuff.

  33. I have been saying this for a while, but I think we need solar arrays mounted on poles for residential use instead of focusing on rooftop solar. There are several advantages: 1. Solar tracking can make far better use of the panels/sunlight generating more power relative to size. 2. The power generated is far more even over the hours of sunlight which is better for the grid. 3. Roof maintenance is independent of solar systems, so you don't feel compelled to scrap a roof that still has a few years left in it, delay the purchase of a solar array, or take down a solar array to reroof. 4. You get effectively a gazebo which is always making the most shade possible relative to size. 5. Instillation should require less hours of work. It will be drawn out a little longer, but less hours. You need a trench and conduit running to the house, a hole dug for the pole, the concrete needs to set. 6. The array itself can be prefabricated in a factory as one or two pieces making mounting on the pole a snap. And even if it is 2 pieces those pieces can be assembled on the ground and then lifted into place. 7. And obviously this whole process should be far safer than moving around on roofs. 8. It can be made to accommodate easy panel/array replacement. 9. Aside from safety, working from the ground is easier on the body. 10. As it is safer and more pleasant, getting and retaining better performing employees should be easier.

  34. To be accurate one has to sum all components and divided by total MW/hr delivered. There are fatalities from mining, power plant construction and maintenance, and electric grid maintenance.

  35. I roofed one summer (bad part of the year) during school for extra cash. It’s hard work, picking up boxes of tiles and keeping your balance. Climbing ladders isn’t fun either. Any ‘high’ activity is dangerous to your health.

  36. It should be noted that lumberjacks have one of the highest fatality rate of any occupation.

  37. Arguing for better safety procedure for roofing. Didn't see any mention of gutter cleaning which can happen twice a year.

  38. It wouldn't surprise me what so ever if most solar panel installations are done by people who have zero experience with roofing/building work.

  39. BBC is no bastion of impartiality. In the last 30 years it's become increasingly political, and is well known over here (UK) for being heavily biased toward anything concerning climate change. They are far less respected than they used to be.
    Hence the "vast amounts of energy" hyperbole. The energy consumed launching a few rockets, even weekly, is a tiny, insignificant fraction of global energy consumption, and using it instead to "tackle climate change" would have exactly zero detectable benefit.

    (Edited typo)

  40. "China syndrome" is when the core melts through the bottom of the reactor, and heads for China. That's where the name came from.

    Setting aside that it doesn't actually seem to happen, and that reactor buildings can easily be designed to prevent it, that leaves a hole whose top is inside the reactor containment.

    So, why wouldn't you want to be in the same region?

    Now, Chernobyl, that was more of a "To the moon, Alice!" syndrome.

  41. Tie off your ladders or have a worker hold it while going up or down. My mistake, finished my 7.7KW solar plant but went boom 10 ft to the pavement from the roof. I was lucky no broken bones. But hey I have solar now!!!

  42. But you don't want to be in the same region after a china syndrome. Nuclear power plant are like riding motorcycles, your eventually going to have an bad accident.

  43. So, the old guy went to the doc. Fell for the receptionist while waiting. Went in for exam. Doc came back from x rays, said he had good news and bad news. Old guy wants the bad news first. Cancer, 6 months, but good until last few days, enjoy the time. Good news? Doc: Did you notice the receptionist? Did I ever! Doc: "I'm dating her."

  44. I thought that you were going to mention that nuclear power stations don't have inclining shingle roofs…

  45. As one writer put it.

    It takes a comic genius to keep a group of people laughing at your jokes for 15 minutes. But burst into tears, and say you've just been diagnosed with cancer and you will be the centre of attention for weeks.

    And THAT is why the media is all about tragedy and inevitable doom.

  46. LOL, I almost lost my tea with that one.

    It's just one more example of the brain rot that comes from repeating the pious gibberish of the eternally unhappy, specially those mad at everything remotely looking as success, free enterprise and freedom overall.

    How they dare not using that money for a (my pet) cause?

  47. How do you tell which of the 111 roofers died installing solar? How many took a pallet of Spanish tiles to the head? How many slipped off a slate roof? How are you correlating these roofing deaths to solar installations?
    Just saw the additional work. Thank you. Still has a big problem. Roofers are not Solar Installers according to the BLS.

  48. agreed. especially when you have multiple layers of roofing from whenever the first owner started – generations ago… scariest low-rise residential non-licensed, construction job…

  49. agreed. Not a lot of traditional single-family residential roofing can safely carry panels (at least those of the early 2000s) without modification and I am thinking they don't go into the attic and check the rafters…

  50. geez. how much does one of those panels weigh? 80 lbs? likely even heavier last decade. Not likely that a smaller roofing company has the small cranes, lifts, etc., to move supplies and materials around and up 2 – 3 to 4+ storeys — also, many fly-by-night roofers, eager to grab a bit of the solar market — if it comes to price, you may get a risky Contractor.

  51. "Is the surface of a planet, on the roof, the right place to collect solar energy?"

    Also, concerning climate: "Against this backdrop the world's multi-billionaires are competing to use vast amounts of energy to put tourists into Space – that's energy that could be tackling climate change." This is respected BBC, btw, the same B as in BIS. No clue.

    edit: why don't these LATimes people have any clue about O'Neill? Or even Space Solar! Do I need to say more?




  52. its like a car wreck compared to a plane crash, nuclear much safer overall but makes for great conversation

  53. well. that roofer did not appear to be tied off or standing on a secured and weight-distributed board .. ho-hum.

Comments are closed.