Working in the construction industry is considered to be among the most hazardous occupations in the nation. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 6.5 million people work in about 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day. OSHA says the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average in this category for all industries.
While there is no question that construction is an inherently dangerous industry, there are a number of construction accidents that occur due to unsafe conditions, lack of personal protective equipment and other forms of negligence. These are accidents that may be prevented if construction companies and contractors followed safety standards, which are in place for a reason – to protect construction workers from injury and harm.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, you may be able to seek compensation for all your losses. An experienced construction accident lawyer will be able to guide you and help you avoid the pitfalls that may jeopardize your claim.
Construction accidents tend to happen due to a number of factors. Here are some of the most common reasons that lead to construction site accidents.
Falls: According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in the U.S. construction industry. In 2016 alone, there were 370 fatal falls out of 991 total construction fatalities in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Construction companies, contractors, business owners, property owners and other involved parties have a responsibility to keep work sites safe and prevent workers from falling off scaffolds, or falling through holes in the floor and walls, etc.
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards and 6 feet in the construction industry. In addition, fall protection must be provided any time workers are operating over dangerous equipment and machinery regardless of the fall distance.
In order to prevent workers from being injured in falls, employers must take a number of steps including using toe-boards or floor hole covers to guard and seal holes. It is also extremely important for construction workers to receive proper fall protection such as safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings and handrails. Floors and work areas should be kept clean without any spills and debris.
If there is a spill, the area should be marked with cones so workers are not at risk of a slip and fall accident. Personal protection equipment including fall safety equipment should be provided at no cost to workers and they should also receive proper training with regard to how to use them. Job and safety training must be provided in a language workers can understand well.
Struck-By Injuries: Injuries caused by being struck by objects happen much more than you may think. In fact, in 2016, these types of injuries caused 93 deaths of construction workers. This accounts for 9.4 percent of all construction accidents! These injuries can happen due to any number of causes. Like flying objects such as discharges from a nail gun, tools and debris that are thrown, or a saw blade’s tip flying off. Any power tools being used should be inventoried to make sure that sufficient protective measures are set. Workers should be provided with protective equipment such as safety goggles or face shields while using such tools. Employees should be wearing safety gear like hard hats while on all work sites.
There are situations where workers can be hit by anything falling from above. All workers should not walk underneath platforms that have high risk of tools and construction materials falling. These areas underneath need to be marked off to warn workers. Construction workers should not be present under suspended loads. It is also important to ensure that all construction materials and tools are secured when work is being done overhead. Injuries can also be caused by swaying objects lifted by cranes or forklifts. Workers should make sure they are far away from the radius of the swinging equipment to prevent such accidents and injuries.
Construction workers may be struck by large vehicles and equipment that are operating on work sites. All works should stay out of the way of any heavy loads or vehicles that are in use or not enter that area altogether. Such vehicles should have audible warning systems in place to alert workers especially when the vehicles are going in reverse. When struck-by accidents occur, these are usually incidents that happen due to woefully inadequate education and training on safety and handling of the machinery.
Electrocution: Construction workers are often exposed to power lines. Therefore, they face the risk of suffering an electrical shock or becoming electrocuted. Major types of electrocution incidents come from contact with overhead power lines, contact with energized sources and improper use of extension cords. In order to protect workers from these types of accidents it is important to locate and identify power lines before starting work. Workers must be trained to maintain a safe distance away from power lines. Workers should be particularly careful when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.
Caught in/between accidents: These are accidents that occur when a worker is caught inside or in between machinery or objects. Such accidents are generally preventable by providing workers with proper safety gear, having safety guards on machines and providing adequate supervision so workers are not placed in such precarious conditions. One of the most common occurrences at construction sites is when walls or portions of buildings collapse on top of workers and crush them. These types of incidents almost always result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities.
Another type of caught-in incident involves trench collapses. OSHA’s definition of an excavation is any man-made depression, cut, trench, or cavity in the surface of the earth that is formed by the removal of dirt/other earth substances. Trenches are defined to be an underground, narrow excavation in which it is deeper than wide, and is also not wider than 15 feet. In addition to constant supervision and worker protection, OSHA requires heavy equipment to be kept away from trenches. Also, trenches cannot be dug where underground utilities are located. Trenches should be inspected during rainy weather and certainly at the start of every shift.
Faulty equipment and tools: Construction workers use a number of different tools to do their jobs. When these tools and equipment malfunction or fail to work as intended, workers may suffer severe injuries. For example, a saw that malfunctions may cause major lacerations or even limb amputations. Nail guns that malfunction have resulted in fatalities on construction sites. Ladders that are unstable or defective may also lead to serious or fatal fall injuries. In such cases where defective products cause accidents or injuries, workers may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturers of the defective products.
There are a number of steps workers should take if they have been injured in a construction accident. Here are some of the crucial steps to be followed in the aftermath of a construction accident:
If you have been injured in a construction accident, you may be able to receive compensation for your losses. Here are some of the types of compensation you may be able to receive.
Under California law, all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance that covers workers who are injured on the job. Workers’ compensation typically covers the following:
Medical care: Workers’ compensation does pay for necessary medical and hospital expenses that are needed to diagnose a work-related injury, and implement treatment procedures. In California, workers’ compensation medical benefits will usually cover things like doctor’s appointments, hospitalization, surgeries and medications. If special medical equipment is necessary for you to better get around after your injury, workers’ compensation will likely pay for it too. It is of the utmost importance that you get prompt medical care and treatment for your injuries.
Rehabilitation benefits: In addition to medical care, you may be able to seek and obtain compensation through workers’ comp for cost of rehabilitative treatment like physical and occupational therapy. Construction workers often end up requiring extensive physical therapy to recover from serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord trauma and broken bones, etc.
In addition, they may require occupational therapy to help restore the skills and abilities that are necessary in order to return to work. If you are unable to return to the job you had, you may also be able to receive vocational rehabilitation, which pays for retraining, evaluation, tuition and other costs of assisting you to become qualified for a different career.
Disability benefits: These types of benefits help compensate workers for a portion of pay they lose when their injuries make it difficult for them to work. The amount of benefits will depend on if injuries were total or partial, and whether or not they are permanent injuries or just temporary.
Death benefits: If the construction accident results in in the worker’s death, immediate family members such as children or spouses who were financially dependent on the worker may be entitled to death benefits. Such benefits may cover family members for the loss of financial support. This benefit is calculated as a percentage of the deceased worker’s earnings.
It is important for a construction worker who has been injured on the job to remember that workers’ compensation is not the only source of compensation. If you have suffered severe injuries and disabilities, often, workers’ compensation in California is woefully inadequate when it comes to covering all your losses. In such cases, an experienced construction accident lawyer can assist you with getting the compensation you need and rightfully deserve.
When your injury has been caused by negligence or wrongdoing on the part of someone other than the employer, you may be able to file what is known as a third-party claim. These types of claims are typically worth a lot more than workers’ compensation claims and prove invaluable to workers who have suffered major or life changing injuries. Examples of third parties who may be held liable for construction accident injuries include general contractors, sub-contractors, construction companies, property and building owners, the equipment maintenance firm, the project manager in charge of the construction project, or the manufacturer of a defective product or piece of equipment that causes the accident and injuries, etc.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction site accident, the experienced construction accident attorneys at [torklaw] can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We will remain with you throughout the claim process and assist you with paperwork and other procedures so you don’t have to worry about any of that as you try to recover and get your life back together. We understand how construction accident injuries can change people’s lives and pose financial and emotional challenges for victims and family members. Please call us today to find out how we can help you.