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Aug 17, 2020 |

Construction Worker Safety

Aug 17, 2020 - Construction Accidents

Speak to an Easton Accident Attorney If You’ve Been Hurt in a Construction Accident

In many ways, construction work is inherently dangerous. Construction workers understand this, but such hazardous conditions can be resolved with safe construction equipment and effective safety regulations. If you have been injured in a construction accident, an Easton accident attorney can help.

Construction Worker Accidents

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has jurisdiction over most private sector and some public sector employers and employees in all 50 states and various territories under federal authority. OSHA ensures a safe and healthy work environment for all working people through training and education, establishing and enforcing safety standards, and providing research and employer/employee assistance. 

According to OSHA, 5,250 workers died on the job in 2018. OSHA has identified the so-called “Fatal Four;” the four most common causes of death on the job site in 2018:

  1. Falls. Falls accounted for 338 deaths.
  2. Struck by Object. Being struck by an object accounted for 112 deaths.
  3. Electrocutions. Electrocutions accounted for 86 deaths.
  4. Caught in or between. Caught in or between equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material, accounted for 55 deaths.

In the calendar year 2018, 1,008 out of 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry were in construction. In other words, over one in five worker deaths in 2018 were in construction. The list above is indicative of the wide variety of types and severity of on-the-job injuries. Aside from the “Fatal Four,” common non-fatal injuries include:

  • Explosions and other types of burns
  • Accidents caused by dangerous material
  • Overexertion caused by long hours and hot or humid weather
  • Slips and tripping
  • Exposure to lead, asbestos, or other dangerous materials
  • Machinery failures.

The wide variety of construction accidents is somewhat predictable because of the inherent danger in and around construction sites. The average worker is usually preoccupied with doing their job well. Their focus tends to be on the task at hand, not the wide variety of dangers surrounding them at any given moment.

Construction Safety Violations

OSHA, as part of its research mandate, has detailed the ten most frequently cited standards violations in the year 2018:

  1. Fall protection: Falls from platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes.
  2. Hazard communication: Failure to communicate information about hazardous material in an understandable manner.
  3. Improperly constructed scaffolding.
  4. Inadequate respiratory protection.
  5. Inadequate control of hazardous energy, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, and thermal energy.
  6. Defective ladders or inadequate ladder safety training.
  7. Defective or improper use of forklifts.
  8. Inadequate training regarding fall protection.
  9. Defective machinery and inadequate machine guarding.
  10. Inadequate eye and face protection.

These violations likely sound familiar to construction workers. It is dangerous work. Still, it does not have to be as dangerous as it is. In fact, our Easton accident attorney notes that business owners have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment. According to the OSHA ACT of 1970, Section 5:

Each employer:

  1.     “Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; and
  2.     Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.” (29 U.S. Code § 654)

Still, OSHA believes that progress is being made. Specifically, OSHA states:

“In more than four decades, OSHA and our state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions, and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety. Worker deaths in America are [down on] average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 14 a day in 2017. Worker injuries and illnesses are [down from] 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 in 2017.”

Defective Equipment in Pennsylvania Construction Accidents

Defective equipment is one of the leading causes of construction accidents and is generally categorized as:

  • Manufacturing defects, including lack of quality control and/or inferior materials, 
  • Design defects, such as poor or lack of safety features, and 
  • Defective warnings. 

These types of defects can be further compounded by lack of proper training, lack of proper upkeep and repairs, and poor documentation and/or maintenance procedures.

On a construction site, defects can critically affect essential equipment, such as forklifts, cranes, tools, and scaffolding. Accidents caused by defective equipment are blameless for the construction worker, yet it is the worker who suffers. Workers have a critical self-interest in reporting defective equipment to management, and management has an absolute duty to remove, replace, or repair defective equipment. Simply eliminating this type of accident can make the workplace significantly safer.

Types of Construction Worker Injuries

Our Easton accident attorney knows that the inherent dangers of construction work in Pennsylvania and elsewhere can result in a wide variety of injuries, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries, typically from falls and sometimes resulting in paralysis
  • Head or traumatic brain injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Abrasions
  • Contusions
  • Cuts
  • Burns
  • Loss of sight or various eye injuries
  • Loss of hearing
  • Sprains or various other joint injuries
  • Amputations
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Other health issues related to toxic exposure
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Obviously, some of these injuries are serious, and many are literally life-changing. The stakes regarding construction worker injuries are high, and it is incumbent upon both employers and employees to work together for the common safety of all. No precaution should be considered unnecessary.

How to Protect Yourself from Construction Accidents

Construction accidents are serious enough to take self-protectionary precautions beyond what workers may normally take. In other words, workers and management should adopt a “zero tolerance” for accidents, including:

  • Using scaffolding, ladders, forklifts, and other common construction equipment with extreme caution
  • Wearing bright and protective clothing and gear, including headgear (PPE)
  • Avoiding positioning yourself underneath or between heavy machinery
  • Avoiding power lines to the extent possible
  • Being sure all workers are well-versed in CPR and other first aid techniques
  • Being sure that first aid stations are plentiful and well-maintained
  • Making sure to follow all warning labels and policies
  • Conducting regular mandatory safety training
  • Developing serious consequences for non-compliance
  • Perhaps most importantly, using common sense

It is important to understand that management and even co-workers may not all place a priority on safety. It is up to each individual to prioritize safety. Peer pressure can be a dangerous influence, but safety, both personally and collectively, should be every worker’s number one concern.

Construction Worker Injury Claims in Pennsylvania

Construction workers may, despite even the strictest of precautions, suffer injuries on the job. Construction workers who suffer an injury on the job have legal options. These include workers’ compensation claims and civil lawsuits.

Workers’ compensation claims requirements vary from state to state, but all workers’ compensation claims have a couple of things in common. First, these claims do not generally require a person to prove that the employer was negligent or otherwise caused the injury. As long as a person is injured during work, they may file a claim. Second, all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Individuals may also be entitled to file a legal claim in civil court. Again, the law varies from state to state, but civil claims are generally more difficult, but potentially more rewarding than workers’ compensation claims. Typically, these legal claims take the form of negligence lawsuits, in which it must be proven that someone else had a duty to act in a safe manner regarding an activity, that this duty was breached by negligent activity, and that the breach of duty caused any injuries.

Contact an Easton Accident Attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis

If you have been involved in a construction accident, you have options, but the laws surrounding workers’ compensation claims and legal claims are complex and can be difficult to understand. This is why anyone involved in a construction accident needs the help of an Easton accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis. We can help you understand your options and assist you in filing any worker’s compensation or legal claims that may be needed. If you need our help, contact us online.

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