Construction sites are among the most dangerous places to work. Construction workers are at risk of a multitude of accidents due to the presence of heavy machinery and materials, electrical components, heights, and moving vehicles.
The four most common causes of construction accident deaths are falls, electrocution, and being struck by or caught in or between objects. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has dubbed these four causes the fatal four and maintains a campaign dedicated to reducing the number of accidents and deaths involving them in the construction industry.
By working with a construction accident lawyer, you can receive guidance on recovering the compensation you deserve for your injuries. They can help you navigate the legal process and fight for your rights to ensure you are fairly compensated for any damages or losses you have experienced.
Your Employer Must Prevent Common Construction Accidents
While each of the fatal four comes with its own specific causes, many construction accidents are due to the lack of safety precautions, insufficient training, and poor implementation of safety measures.
OSHA regulates workplace conditions. The government agency requires employers and construction site managers to enforce certain safety measures to prevent accidents and injuries.
Your employer must:
- Ensure overhead power line safety
- Isolate electrical parts
- Ensure proper grounding
- Maintain power tools, equipment, and machinery
- Ensure proper guarding from certain electrical hazards, power tools, and equipment with moving parts
- Ensure equipment with parts that workers could be caught between are safe for use
- Prevent workers from being crushed by heavy equipment that tips over and walls/roofs during demolition
- Prevent workers from equipment and solid objects
- Provide secure protective systems for trenching and excavation work to prevent cave-ins
- Properly construct scaffolds and platforms
- Designate someone to oversee and inspect the setup or installation of various work areas
- Provide training for the operation of power tools, machinery, and equipment, as well as training on prevention and recognizing safety hazards
- Implement fall protection, such as guard rails, safety nets, and fall arrests systems (harnesses)
- Properly cover holes and openings to prevent falls and falling objects
- Implement overhead protection to avoid injuries from falling objects
- Place signs to warn of traffic around the construction site
While your employer or manager must ensure safety on the job site, it is incumbent on all workers on the construction site to be vigilant in minding their safety. You should carefully perform your tasks, watch where you step, ensure you do not leave items in the walkway, turn down tasks you are not qualified for, and point out anything you feel is unsafe to your boss.
You can also file a complaint with OSHA if your employer or whoever is in charge fails to abide by the applicable laws and rules. Additionally, you have a right to refuse to work if the job site is dangerous.
Falls Cause Most Construction Accident Fatalities
Falls are the most common type of construction accident. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 35 percent of construction accident deaths result from workers falling. Most of these are falls from height onto a lower level.
The BLS reports construction jobs regularly expose 62 percent of workers to heights.
Of workers who fall:
- 33 percent fall from roofs
- 18 percent fall from scaffolding or staging
- 16 percent fall from ladders
- 8 percent fall from girders or structural steel
- 25 percent fall through existing floor openings, from non-moving vehicles, aerial lifts, and other platforms
Although most construction fatalities happen because of falls from height, falls on the same level make up some of these numbers. In fact, falls on the same level, such as slipping or tripping, accounted for the highest number of injuries amongst construction laborers at one point.
How Do Falls Accidents Occur?
Falls tend to happen from:
- Roofs or floors collapsing
- Stepping in and falling through existing holes and openings in floors and roofs, such as skylight holes
- Jumping from equipment and structures
- Falling from platforms, such as a roof or forklift platform or scaffold
- Tripping over objects
- Slipping on materials and substances
Preventing Construction Accident Falls
Most falls are preventable. Construction employers are responsible for taking proper safety measures under OSHA rules.
To stop these accidents, construction workers should use:
- Guardrails around the perimeter of an elevated platform, a form of fall prevention. It will help stop a fall when workers get close to the edges.
- Fall arrest systems, a safety harness and anchorage set up to catch the worker if a fall occurs. This form of fall protection aims to stop the worker from hitting the ground or a lower level.
- Safety nets, another form of fall protection that breaks the worker’s fall if he falls from an elevated level.
- Install secure and sturdy coverings for holes and openings that can bear the weight of workers and equipment.
- Choose the right ladder for the job so that there is less of a chance of it sliding or slipping, causing a fall
- Ensure scaffolds are properly constructed to avoid a collapse
Struck By an Object Is the Second Leading Cause of Death Among Construction Workers
Being struck by objects is the second leading cause of construction accident deaths. OSHA defines struck by accidents as those which occur when there is a forcible impact between an object or piece of equipment and a person.
Struck by accidents have four main causes:
- Flying objects
- Swinging objects
- Falling objects
- Rolling objects
Struck by Flying Objects
Objects that are thrown or propelled across a space present a flying hazard. Workers in the path of the flying object may be hit. Flying hazards include materials that may separate from equipment, machines, or other objects, as well as items that may be ejected from a power tool or machinery. An example might be a wood plank flying off the back of a moving pickup truck, striking a worker in the abdomen.
Struck by Swinging Objects
Swinging hazards exist when individual materials, objects, or loads are lifted manually or mechanically. These objects may swing, twist, or turn from a single point and strike an employee. For example, a crane operator lifting steel pipes unaware of the presence of another worker below may accidentally strike their colleague in the head.
Struck By Falling Objects
When objects and equipment fall from elevated heights, they may strike workers on the head, resulting in serious or fatal injury. The chances of such falling objects increase due to workers routinely operating from heights and using equipment and machinery that lifts objects overhead.
Struck by Rolling Machinery, Objects, and Vehicles
Being struck by rolling, sliding, or moving vehicles, machinery, or objects is another common mechanism of injury on construction sites.
Getting Caught in or Between Objects in a Construction Accident
Caught in or between are accidents where a person is squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or parts of an object.
These accidents include:
- Being caught or crushed in operating equipment
- Being caught between other mashing equipment
- Being caught between a moving and stationary object
- Being caught between two moving objects
- Trench cave-ins
- Wall and roof collapse
Caught-in or between accidents differ from struck by incidents in that the crushing causes the injury, not merely the act of striking. The most frequently occurring hazards that cause caught-in or between injuries include:
Machines With Unguarded Moving Parts
Construction sites are filled with machinery that has moving or rotating parts. When workers need to clean or repair these machines, they may suffer injury when caught by something and pulled into the machine.
Unguarded machines or power tools may catch and injure workers. When machines are not de-energized (or locked out) prior to maintenance, they may start up while a worker services them and catch the worker’s clothes or limbs.
Cave-ins of trenches and excavations may bury workers. The collapsed walls of dirt can crush or suffocate workers. Walls that collapse during demolition and large scaffolds that collapse can also crush workers underneath.
Additionally, trenches contain hazardous conditions. Here, workers can drown in water, sewage, or chemicals that flood the trench. Some construction workers work around utilities and may face electrocution or burns from steam, hot water or electricity, or explosions from gas.
Getting pinned between things is a common mechanism of caught-in or between accidents. These types of accidents may result in a construction worker suffering asphyxiation, broken bones, or death.
Workers can become pinned between:
- Equipment and solid objects
- Items that are stacked or stored and solid objects
- Between shoring and construction materials in a trench
Construction Workers Can Sustain Electrocution Injuries
Electrocution occurs when someone is exposed to a lethal amount of energy. While most people don’t deal with electrical hazards in their daily activity, construction workers have numerous electrocution hazards around them on the job site every day.
Electrical hazards on construction sites include:
- Burns: The most common type of injury from electrical shock.
- Electrocutions: Electrocution means to kill with electricity.
- Shock: An electrical current flows through the body as the body becomes a part of the electrical circuit. Shock is the reflex response to the current.
- Arc flash/shock blast: A sudden release of electrical energy that travels through the air to another conductor.
- Fire: Electrical fires often result from fixed wiring like old wiring, defective electrical outlets, and issues with cords, plugs, or switches.
- Explosions: Electricity can ignite combustible materials in the air, causing an explosion
What Can You Do if a Construction Accident Injures You?
In the event of a construction accident, you have a right to workers’ compensation. This coverage generally provides money for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, about two-thirds of your lost income, and death benefits to surviving family members in the event of a fatality.
If you have suffered emotional distress since the accident or needed to pay someone to mow your lawn, pick your kids up from school, or help around the house due to your injury, workers’ comp would not cover the related expenses. In that case, you may have to explore other avenues to obtain full and fair compensation.
You Can File a Construction Accident Lawsuit for Your Damages
In some cases, you could sue the party who caused or contributed to your construction accident. Generally speaking, the law does not allow you to sue your employer or co-workers when workers’ compensation insurance is in place. However, under certain circumstances, you can file a lawsuit against your employer, depending on the state you live in.
Alternatively, you may have a case against a third party that caused the accident. If you were injured due to the negligence of a machinery manufacturer or a service provider, such as an electrical engineer or a construction inspection company, you could file a lawsuit against them.
You Can Hire a Lawyer to Help With Your Construction Accident Claim
Construction accident cases are often complex due to workers’ compensation laws and the involvement of multiple potentially liable parties.
If you were hurt on a construction worksite, whether it was one of the most common types of construction accidents or a terrible set of circumstances, contact a personal injury law firm. The attorneys can recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
To do so, they can investigate the incident, speak to relevant parties, negotiate a settlement, and advocate for you throughout all legal proceedings. Most construction accident attorneys take these cases on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you have nothing to lose when you hire them. With their help, you can get the rest you need to recuperate and the peace of mind knowing they are working for your best interests.