While workplace injuries and illnesses can happen at any job and in any industry, construction workers are particularly prone to injuries. They deal with heavy equipment and bustling activity, often at staggering heights. According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the construction industry accounts for one-fifth of all private industry workplace fatalities!
Were you injured on a construction site, as either a worker or a pedestrian? Did a loved one perish from construction accident injuries? Give us a call, no matter where you live. Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, and his team are a national law firm based in Houston with multiple offices around the country. We also work with affiliate law firms in most states that share our focus and dedication to excellence. Call or contact us now to see if we can help you. We are open, for FREE, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-898-4877, or you may contact us now by CLICKING HERE to submit your case for review.
Top 4 Causes of Construction Fatalities
Except for transportation accidents when traveling to or from the job sites, most accidents resulting in construction worker fatalities happen for four reasons—commonly referred to as the industry’s “fatal four.” OSHA states that if these fatal four causes of accidents were eliminated, the lives of 591 American workers could be saved each year.
In one year alone, 1,008 workers died from construction site injuries, and 59% of those fatalities resulted from the fatal four, which include:
- Falls: 34%t of construction worker deaths were a result of falls. A construction worker in Sanford, Florida, died after he fell from a scissor lift while working on a building. OSHA notes that it investigated more than 20 preventable fatalities that were caused by scissor lifts at construction sites within a year’s time, with most of the accidents caused by employers failing to address fall protection, stabilization of the lift, and proper positioning of the lift. Scissor lifts and other machinery must have stable guardrails to prevent falls.
- Struck by object: 11% of construction worker deaths were attributed to the worker being struck by an object. A 55-year-old Maryland construction worker was killed at a job site in Virginia when he was struck by a piece of rebar that fell from a crane lift.
- Electrocution: Electrocution accounted for 8.5% of U.S. construction site fatalities. In Woodbridge, New Jersey, one construction worker died and another remained in critical condition after they both were struck by a live wire while working on a redevelopment project that involved constructing residential housing units. A third worker was also injured and was treated for electrical burns. While erecting scaffolding to put up siding, a worker on the roof suddenly lost control of the scaffolding pole he was guiding in the wind. When two workers on the ground attempted to grab the pole, it struck a 220-volt high tension wire.
- Caught inside or between: Being caught in or between equipment or objects resulted in 5.5% of the construction worker fatalities in one recent year. A construction worker in Eugene, Oregon was killed after being pinched between an excavator and a concrete barrier at a job site near the Delta Highway and the Beltline Interchange. By the time emergency responders had arrived on the scene, the worker had been freed. He was transported to a local hospital, but he died soon after from his injuries.
In some cases, more than one of the above categories applies. For example, two construction workers became trapped and were critically injured after two concrete beams fell onto the lift they were operating at Bryant-Denny Stadium. They were transported to the hospital, where one of the workers was reported to have sustained a massive head trauma and the other was believed to be paralyzed. The job site was subsequently closed down so OSHA officials could investigate the incident.
A source close to the situation pointed out that it appeared the beams were not properly supported during installation, and the welds broke. You could categorize this as a combination of a fall, struck by object, and caught in/between accident.
Prevention is the Cure
According to OSHA, all of construction’s fatal four accident causes are preventable. Here are their suggestions for preventing these types of accidents:
- Falls: Employees working at heights should be trained and equipped with, personal fall arrest equipment such as durable body harnesses Employers are responsible for installing and maintaining proper perimeter protection such as stable guardrails on all open sided platforms. Floor openings should be covered and secured, and floor opening covers should be properly labeled so that all employees know where they are and can proceed with caution. Ladders and scaffolding should be used safely and properly, in accordance with OSHA requirements.
- Struck by an object: Employees can avoid being struck by objects by never placing themselves between moving and fixed objects, wearing safety gear like hard hats, and wearing high visibility clothing when working around heavy equipment and vehicles.
- Caught in/ between: According to OSHA, this type of accident is common in trench work. As such, it can be avoided if employees are trained to never enter a trench that is more than five feet deep without an adequate protection system in place, and to ensure that the trench is protected by sloping, shoring, benching, or trench shield systems.
- Electrocutions: Electrocution accidents can be avoided by locating and identifying all electrical lines before beginning work, looking out for electrical lines when operating equipment, maintaining a distance of at least 10 feet between workspaces and electrical lines, avoiding the use of portable electrical tools unless they are grounded or double insulated, using ground-fault circuit interrupters for added protection, and being alert to electrical hazards while working with ladders, scaffolding, or other platforms.
What Are the Most Common OSHA Violations?
Many of the most common OSHA violations involve the construction industry. Here is a list of the top ten violations:
- Fall protection, construction
- Hazard communication standard, general industry
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
- Respiratory protection, general industry
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry
- Ladders, construction
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry
- Fall Protection, training requirements
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements
- Eye and face protection
What Penalties Do Companies Face for OSHA Violations?
As reported by Construction Dive, the following companies received the highest penalties in one recent quarter:
- Allways Roofing, Snohomish, Washington: A total of 18 citations were issued over two job sites, including six serious, six willful, two repeat and four classified as “other.” The violations mostly involved fall protection, which is common for roofing companies as their workers generally work at heights. The company has been cited 7 times since 2012 and has been placed into Washington’s Severe Violator program. The total amount of the penalties levied against the company in only one year was $374,400, which the company is contesting.
- Mike Krueger (roofer), Martin, Ohio: Violations over two job sites included: employees were working without proper guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems, the company had not trained employees about potential fall hazards, the company had not developed an accident prevention program, employees were using ladders in an unsafe manner, and the company did not require eye protection for those employees operating pneumatic nail guns. The company has been cited five times since 2008. It is not contesting the latest violations, and payment of $247,544 for the penalties is pending.
- Martin Davila (dba Davila Construction), St. Louis, Missouri: The violations discovered at three separate job sites included: failure to provide adequate fall protection for employees; failure to train workers about what fall safety hazards they might encounter, proper fall protection procedures, and the safe use of ladders; failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers using pneumatic nail guns; failure to develop and maintain a safety program; and operation of internal combustion engines near a five-gallon gas can. These violations resulted in fines of $205,098 and payment is pending abatement of issues.
- Westwind Contracting Inc., Pembroke Park, Florida: An employee of Westwind Contracting drowned while working inside a catch basin at a project site. Inspectors said that the incident occurred when a plug that was used to seal an opening of a newly installed drainpipe failed and caused water to flood the catch basin. The company had previously been cited for excavation hazards and OSHA inspectors stated that it had again failed to protect its employees and failed to properly train them in safe excavation procedures. The company was fined $185,239 and is contesting the violations.
- Graham Construction Co., Escatawpa, Mississippi: The company was cited for five violations, including three serious, one willful, and one repeat. OSHA inspectors found that the company failed to adequately protect employees from motor vehicle traffic, did not have a competent person conducting regular inspections of the excavation, did not remove workers from the excavation in question until it was made safe for them to work in, did not protect workers by having adequate cave-in protection measures in place, and did not provide a safe means of egress from the excavation. The company is contesting the $161,771 fine, as well as fines for similar violations in 2017.
- Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC, Pelham, Alabama, and WW Restoration LLC, Randolph, Alabama: The two companies were cited as one employer as they were sharing operations and supervisory duties when a 15-year-old worker fell to his death at one of their job sites. The teen reportedly fell 40 feet through an unsupported roof on an industrial project. The two willful violations that the company received were failure to provide fall protection and failure to provide sufficient training. An additional investigation has been undertaken into violations to state laws that require people to be at least 18 years old to perform roofing work.
The costliest penalties ever handed out to a company for OSHA violations took place in 2009 when the administration proposed a penalty of $87,430,000 to BP Products North America for safety violations at its oil refinery in Texas City, Texas. These safety hazards resulted in the explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 more.
The largest construction industry penalty to be handed down in years was given to Great White Construction, of Jacksonville, Florida. The $1,523,710 penalty was actually two penalties combined, resulting from two inspections at the company’s job sites. The violations were mainly fall protection and eye hazard issues. However, the company had received 22 citations since 2012. The company was placed in OSHA’s Serious Violator program to be subject to increased inspections and oversight.
Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their job sites and the training of their workers. OSHA reminds workers of all industries that they have the right to work in a safe, secure environment. They also have the right to receive the proper training and equipment to reduce hazards at their workplace. They have the right to report unsafe working conditions to OSHA or their employer, or to request an OSHA inspection. They have the right to report workplace injuries to either their employer or to OSHA without fear of retaliation. Staying informed about your rights is vital to your wellbeing – don’t be afraid to hold employers accountable.
The Right to Compensation
In addition to the rights outlined above, workers also have the right to be compensated for their work-related injuries through their state’s Workers Compensation program. In most states, this is the primary resource for compensation of work-related illness and injuries, with employees often being barred from personal injury litigation. The exception to this rule, in most states, is if a third-party (someone you didn’t work for!) caused the accident that resulted in your injuries. Our experienced construction accident attorneys can advise you if there are exceptions in your case.
Our Construction Accident Law Firm Is Ready to Help You
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of injured victims for more than 20 years. If you were injured in an accident at a construction site, call our office right now for a free consultation! Because we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a DIME unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or contact us now by CLICKING HERE.
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