Construction workers are at very high-risk for injuries, and the construction industry accounts for more worker fatalities than virtually any other field. Construction sites present workers with constant hazards, through the use of heavy machinery, navigating scaffolding, working at heights or adjacent to pits or trenches, and through the simple accumulation of loose materials on site. Because of the ever-present danger, the construction industry is highly regulated to facilitate worker safety. And while taking the proper steps to identify and address potential safety hazards greatly reduces those risks, accidents still happen on a regular basis at construction sites, often causing devastating injuries or death. An experienced attorney can help determine why the accident occurred and who is responsible.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified four types of preventable construction accidents – often referred to as the Fatal Four – which are amongst the most hazardous situations for construction workers. They are:
Working on a roof, scaffolding, ladder, or other raised surface puts a person at risk of more severe injury if they should fall. Workers may not be aware of hazards such as electrical cords or misplaced tools that cause them to lose their balance. Where the worker is 6 feet or more above the ground, OSHA requires fall protection be in place to protect the worker. Failure to follow these requirements is often the result of devastating injuries.
Objects such as tools or materials can fall from elevated work spaces and strike workers below, causing severe injuries. Workers can also be seriously injured when they are hit by objects that swing while being lifted, or by slivers of wood that fly off a piece being sawed. Once again, OSHA requires safeguards be utilized to minimize the risks of these accidents. Failure to follow these safety rules is generally the root cause when a worker is hit by falling objects or debris.
Whether constructing a new building or tearing down an old one, workers are at risk of contact with power lines. Direct contact is not necessary for one to be electrocuted. Use of ladders or other equipment that is not properly grounded can be just as deadly as contact with exposed wiring or overloaded circuits. Use of power tools may also present a hazard if they are damaged, defective. OSHA requires inspections for and elimination of such hazards. Failure to follow these safety rules is generally the root cause of electrocutions on construction sites.
Construction accidents in which workers are “caught between” machinery or heavy materials, crushed by a cave-in, or in which an arm or leg is caught in a piece of equipment are devastating. The cause of these accidents is often multi-factorial, but frequently stem from the failure to follow simple OSHA safety rules.
While the “fatal four” present the most common types of construction accidents, workers face many other risks including transportation accidents, exposure to chemicals or other harmful substances, or contact with equipment or materials. Any construction site accident is potentially serious – or even deadly. And NONE should be ignored.
A construction-related injury can range from minor cuts and bruises to more serious injuries such as:
Injuries sustained in a construction accident can easily be severe enough to prevent an employee from returning to work and may have a long and difficult recovery period. In some cases, they can be fatal.
Construction workers who are injured may be able to pursue a third-party liability claim in addition to the Workers’ Compensation benefits they may receive. While some hazards are unavoidable, employers & general contractors have a responsibility to minimize any potential risks and provide adequate warning about hazards on the job. Construction companies must create a culture that makes safety a priority, which includes thoroughly training employees and providing necessary safety equipment. When they fail to take these steps to protect workers, they can often be held liable for injuries that occur on the job.
The circumstances of the construction accident will determine who can be held responsible. An experienced construction accident lawyer can help sort through the details of the accident and prepare a successful legal strategy.