By the nature of the job, there are numerous ways a construction worker can get hurt. An accident can happen through his/her own work, or through the surrounding environment. It is vital that any construction business maintain strict adherence to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
According to OSHA, every day there are close to 6.5 million construction workers on an estimated 252,000 construction sites around the U.S. The rate of injuries, and specifically fatal injuries, is higher in the construction industry than all other industries. Falls, electrocution, hit by falling objects, and being caught between materials and/or equipment are the main causes of construction worker fatalities.
A wide range of injuries can occur on any construction site, even in the safest possible environment. Most sites have numerous employees working in different capacities at one time. Accidents can involve one person, or multiple people. It is crucial the workers are aware of the variety of projects on-site being worked on at the same time.
The types of injuries construction workers may face include:
- Back Injuries: Back injuries may occur to anyone in construction work. The severity may vary but can also include spinal cord injuries. Any back injury can be debilitating and may even cause paralysis.
- Broken or Crushed Bones: With the use of heavy machinery, sharp objects, and crushing tools at construction sites, injuries causing a cracked, broken, or crushed bone(s) can occur. Sometimes an accident may even cause loss of a partial, or complete digit. While, in some instances, amputation may be required due to an injury.
- Burns: Multiple types of burns can occur at a worksite including chemical burns, electrical burns, frictional burns, thermal burns, and cold temperature burns. Construction workers risk that possibility be it to a small area of the body, or larger. Some burns require less care than others, while may cause permanent scarring.
- Electrocution Injuries: These are some of the worst injuries possible on a job site. They are usually a result of failure to meet electrical safety standards in construction work and can result in a fatality.
- Eyes and Ears: Some tools and machinery, and chemicals can be dangerous to the eyes and/or the ears, especially when not used properly. Vision or hearing loss can often be long-term or permanent. This can result in a major adjustment for anyone.
- Head Injuries: It goes without saying that head injuries can be some of the worst to occur in construction work. Concussions or brain-swelling can be the result, and may be very serious.
Hazards of a Construction Worksite
While an accident can occur with one person and his/her own work, there can be many more factors. Tools, equipment, supplies, and power sources can all be hazardous. Combine those things with multiple people working and the mix can cause problems and accidents.
Some construction accident causes are:
- Crane Accidents: By its nature, a crane can be dangerous. Nearly one-half of crane accidents occur when the boom or the crane itself becomes energized by contacting with power lines. Other problems include a worker being hit with an overhead load or caught in the swing radius.
- Forklift Accidents: While not as complex as a crane, operating a forklift or working around one can also be dangerous. Because of the size and shape of a forklift, turnovers do occur. The result can be serious injury and sometimes death.
- Scaffolding Accidents: Scaffold-related accidents include workers falling from great heights, or objects falling and hitting workers below. The results may cause spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and more.
- Ladders and Stairways: Similar to scaffolding accidents, falls and falling objects come with climbing up temporary stairways and ladders. Some of these injuries can also be severe.
- Building Collapse: While somewhat rare, parts of buildings under construction can suffer structural collapse. Workers can fall, and others can be crushed by falling debris. The degree of injuries can range from minor to severe, even death.
- ironworker Accidents: ironworkers are among the most likely to suffer some type of work-related injury. The work is physically demanding and is often up high. The metal can be sharp and the tools hot, which can all be dangerous.
- Carpenter Accidents: Carpenters tend to the most detailed of construction work. They are often on ladders or scaffolding while performing their work with a variety of tools.
- Overexertion: Construction workers are on the job, mostly outside, no matter the weather, and often working long hours. In the summer when hot and humid, this can cause dehydration which can result in fainting, and even a stroke. In the winter, when it can be brutely cold, a worker can experience frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia.
Other causes of construction accidents include:
- Falling Objects
- Fires, Burns and Explosions
- Heavy Equipment
- Lifting and Back Injuries
- Painter/Plumber/Roofer Accidents
- Trench or Ground Collapse
- Trapped Between Materials
- Chemical Exposure on the Job
- Being Hit by a Vehicle
Accidents involving Undocumented Illegal Workers
Undocumented construction workers have rights, too. In fact, in New York, they have the same rights as a citizen with claims for workers’ compensation benefits due to an on-the-job accident. Furthermore, personal injury suits are presented in civil court, not federal court. As such, undocumented workers will not be deported due to an on-the-job injury claim.
Who is Liable?
In the event of faulty safety gear or defective power tools, determining liability is not always clear-cut. If the equipment involved has a faulty part, or is faulty by design, this most likely comes down to the manufacturer.
But when equipment breaks down due to normal wear and tear, and is not maintained properly, the employer is negligent and responsible. Even if maintenance is under the care of a co-worker, ultimately the work falls under the responsibility of the employer. However, if the worker knows there is a problem with the equipment and uses it anyway, the responsibility could be on that worker.
In some cases, there may be more than one responsible party, possibly the employer and the manufacturer. It comes down to determining fault, and that is one of the things an attorney will investigate for you.
A workers’ compensation claim is generally the route for construction workers for on-the-job injuries. Workers’ compensation should cover injury-related medical care along with compensation for lost wages.
Construction workers in New York
New York offers greater protection and compensation through its labor law statues. If a New York construction worker suffers an on-the-job injury, it is important that he/she works with an attorney who understands New York construction law. Labor Law sections 200, 240, and 241-6 are specifically aimed at construction site workers.
Labor Law Section 200: This section of the labor laws states that any property owner, or general contractor, who had reasonable control over a construction site, or project, and the conditions under which the workers operated, may be held liable for injuries and construction site accidents that occur when the accident was the result of a hazardous condition that they should have been reasonably aware or made aware of. This does exclude blatantly obvious or apparent dangerous situations, such as exposed hanging dangers on which a worker could hit his/her head.
Labor Law Section 240: Formerly known as the Scaffold Law, this section protects construction workers in the event of a gravity-related construction site accident. According to this section of the law, contractors, and owners, barring single- or two-family homeowners not directly in control of the work being performed, are required to provide safety provisions, such as scaffolding, ladders, and hoists, to adequately protect workers from both falling from great heights or having objects fall on them. In gravity-related accidents, contractors, and property owners can be held strictly liable for an injury.
Labor Law Section 241-6: This section states that property owners, with certain exceptions, and general contractors are obligated to provide safe construction sites to workers and that this duty cannot be placed on another party (is non-delegable). This includes providing safety equipment and safe tools and appliances. Under this section, the owner or contractor must have had sufficient control over the site and the work being performed in order to be liable.
Call on an Experienced Construction Law Attorney
Construction law can be complex, and every case is different. While filing a claim with workers’ compensation is possible, construction workers may be barred from filing a claim against their employer, directly. This is something your New York attorney is aware of and should be able to deal with for you.
For the New York construction worker who has suffered an accident, it is important to work with a local attorney who has the education, knowledge, and experience it takes to handle your case properly and with your best interest in mind. Your attorney should:
- Patiently answer all your questions and concerns while offering you all your legal options.
- Fully investigate your accident while interviewing anyone else involved along with witnesses and gathering all pertinent evidence.
- Deal with your employer, workman’s compensation personnel, and insurance agents.
- Proceed with a trial case, if necessary, filling complaints, scheduling trial, and handling anything else regarding your case.
If you are a construction worker who has suffered an accident on the job, you can feel comfortable calling upon the law firm of Chaikin LaPenna. Our attorneys have the experience to handle New York construction law. Do not try to handle the legalities of your construction accident alone. Give us a call, today.
No Fees Until We Win.
Please call us at (212) 977-2020 or fill out the form below to get started.