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5 things construction workers should know about on-the-job injuries

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  1. Falls account for the most common type of injuries among construction workers and are the greatest cause of fatal injuries.

This data comes from www.findlaw.com.   The falls include falls from scaffolding, roofs, ladders, cranes, and other heights.   Falls account for 22% of overall accidents, the website reports.   The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries says 39% of fatal falls are roof falls and 33% fall from scaffolding.  Another 39% are ladder falls, with 27% of those from 10 feet or less.

A second common cause of injuries and deaths is electrocution and construction workers struck by objects overhead, including tools and construction materials used by a worker above them.  Equipment-related accidents from heavy machine equipment like forklifts and dumpsters are the third largest cause of construction-related injuries.

The fourth and fifth most common construction worker injuries, according to findlaw.com, are backovers, crushed between, and fires and explosions.  Workers are sometimes at risk from large trucks backing out of construction sites and getting crushed between large vehicles and walls or concrete.  They are also often exposed to hazardous conditions such as flammable chemicals, exposed wiring, and leaking pipes which cause injuries.

Trench and building collapses are the sixth most common cause of construction worker injury.   This most often happens when a building that’s being demolished or under construction or a trench that’s being built suddenly collapses on the workers inside, killing or seriously injuring them.

Other common job-related health conditions seen in construction workers are heat stroke, hypothermia or frostbite, elevated levels of lead in the blood, and respiratory diseases.

  1. Sometimes workers in the construction trade are exposed to dangerous conditions at work sites which are caused by others who view the employee’s safety as a secondary consideration.

The most-violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard is fall protection, and falls cause the most accidents in the industry, according to Construction Management Analyst Rachel Burger.   New York’s State Labor Law, the Scaffolding Law, protects construction employees working at an elevation and creates a standard where the ultimate responsibility for safety is on the general contractor or owner.

OSHA also has requirements for fall protection systems for those who work equal to or greater than six feet above the ground.   The U.S. Department of Labor created OSHA in 1970 to reduce workplace hazards and implement health and safety programs.

Dangerous working conditions are often caused by negligence, exposure to dangerous conditions at work sites, and the practices of contractors, architects, subcontractors, and product or tool manufacturers, which may make these latter parties liable for any injuries sustained.   Construction accidents can happen anywhere there are workers—at commercial sites, residential locations, and at industrial complexes.

Employers are obligated by OSHA to provide a safe working environment in a number of ways:

  • They must alert workers to unsafe conditions and inform employees of OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their workplace.
  • They must keep the site free from danger-causing situations, obstacles, or recognized hazards.
  • They must make sure tools and equipment at the work site are properly used and maintained.
  • Safety rules should be imposed and supervised by engineers and architects at the site.
  • They must provide employees with safety training in a language workers can understand.
  • They must display the official OSHA poster in a prominent place.
  • They must inform employees of the existence, location, and availability of their medical and exposure records when employees first begin employment and at least annually thereafter and provide these records upon request.

OSHA gives employees the following rights:

–the right to review standards, rules, regulations, and requirements that the employer should have available at the workplace.

–the right to access relevant employee exposure and medical records.

–the right to request the OSHA area director to inspect their workplace if they believe there are hazardous conditions or violations of standards and have an authorized employee representative accompany the OSHA officer on the inspection tour.

–the right to receive a copy of tests done to find hazards in the workplace.

–upon request to OSHA, the right to have their names withheld from their employer if they sign and file a written complaint.

–the right to be free of any discriminatory or retaliatory action taken by their employer.

–the right to review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.

  1. Construction workers should use ergonomic principles to help reduce musculoskeletal injuries on the job.

Ergonomics looks at how tools can be designed or adjusted for maximum efficiency to create the best fit for the individual performing the task, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  There are many uses for ergonomics in the business environment, but in construction, there are numerous musculoskeletal injuries or disorders (MSD) possible.  These often stem from repetitive movements and lifting of heavy objects improperly.  They cause about one-third of construction worker injuries, according to OSHA, and are the most frequently occurring health hazard in the industry.

Construction workers often operate in confined spaces, and their movements cause injuries to the tendons, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and joints, as well as the nerves and blood vessels.   The body relies on proper alignment to help prevent injury.   Ergonomic principles use body-positioning techniques to help maintain proper balance.

Other ergonomic principles involve learning how to lift objects correctly by bending your knees and lifting the object with the help of the leg muscles, keeping one foot in front of the other to promote balance.   Ergonomics also involves using the wrists naturally to prevent damage to the wrist tendons, nerves, and ligaments.   Holding power tools properly is another way to practice ergonomic principles in construction.

  1. Even though receiving worker’s compensation benefits, a construction worker can take action against a responsible party.

When injury from a construction accident is due to wrongdoing or carelessness of a third party, the construction worker can file a third-party lawsuit concerning the injuries (AllLaw.com).  At other times worker’s compensation is the worker’s only remedy, and recovery is usually less than one would receive in a personal injury lawsuit.

Responsibility for a lawsuit against a third party could include the owner of the site, a contractor, a subcontractor, and others.  The amount of control the owner or others have over the site will be the condition for determining their responsibility in the injury.

There are generally three types of lawsuits that can be filed:

  • A lawsuit for product liability. This is an injury caused by an improperly labeled or faulty product.   The manufacturer, and in some cases, the distributors of the product, can be made to pay compensation to the injured worker.
  • A lawsuit for fatal construction injury and wrongful death. The family of a construction worker fatally injured by the wrongdoing or carelessness of a third party can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against that party.
  • A lawsuit for a construction injury. If the injury was directly caused by the carelessness and wrongdoing of a third party, the claim for worker’s compensation and a lawsuit for personal injury can be filed together.
  • In these cases, you have to prove the third party was responsible for the worker’s safety but failed to uphold his duty. It must also be proven that the third party’s wrongdoing and carelessness were the direct sources of the injury.

The injured party must keep records of everything from the accident, including medical records, photographic evidence, statements from witnesses, and all other information that could be helpful in making a claim.   A construction accident lawyer knowledgeable in fighting construction cases can also gather this evidence.  An injured individual may be entitled to the following types of damages:

  • lost wages (resulting from missed work
  • medical bills
  • pain and suffering and emotional trauma
  • therapy and rehabilitation costs
  • loss of normal life (expressed in the quality of life after the injury compared to life before the injury).
  1. Construction workers should not fail to realize they are in a very dangerous occupation where 1 in 10 workers is injured each year (with the highest injury rate in the ironwork industry).

Nearly 20% of all workplace deaths are in the construction industry, and the industry is #2 in the United States for fatal injuries to workers younger than 18.   These statistics are from Rachel Burger, a construction management analyst.   Sixty percent of construction workplace injuries occur within an employee’s first year of employment, Burger reports.

The most construction deaths annually occur in the states of Texas, Florida, and California.

Who Should a Construction Worker Contact

Once an injured construction worker has assessed his or her legal options and decided he has a personal injury case and does not have to settle for worker’s compensation, he should find an attorney with knowledge and experience who has handled several construction injury cases.  Slater & Zurz law firm has construction accident lawyers of this caliber and will start working on your case immediately, conducting a thorough site examination and finding out exactly what happened when your injury occurred.

Due to complex liability issues, you need to be aware of legal deadlines for filing causes of action for injury (especially for injuries at city-owned construction sites).

Call Slater & Zurz at 888-534-4850 and ask for a construction accident attorney.  You can contact the law firm by filling out a form on the site explaining your issues.