In general, worker safety and health have increased dramatically over the past 50 years. However, there were still 4,764 reported on-site worker fatalities in 2020. Nearly half of the deaths were workers in transportation or construction and extraction occupations. These statistics come from the Occupational Safety and Health Association, a government agency that employs inspectors to monitor work conditions at more than 8 million work sites in the nation. If you or a loved one work on a construction site, it is important to know your rights, who is responsible for protecting you, and how to receive proper compensation for any injuries if you are in an accident.
How is a construction site defined for legal purposes?
Construction work encompasses “the construction, rehabilitation, alteration, conversion, extension, demolition or repair of buildings, highways, or other changes or improvements to real property, including facilities providing utility services, according to Cornell Law. The term includes the supervision, inspection, and other on-site functions incidental to the actual construction. Many people refer to construction sites as building sites, however, this limits the definition to the housing project location. In reality, construction sites embody a much wider range of projects. Often, an area of land becomes a construction site when it is signed off to a contractor to begin construction work.
What are the most common construction site accidents?
Construction site accidents generally fall under four common categories that OSHA has deemed as “The Fatal Four.” They include:
Falls, often occurring as a result of unsteady ladders, scaffolding, unprotected roof edges, and roof/floor openings.
Being struck by an object, common at construction sites filled with heavy-duty equipment and machinery that require specific use guidelines and protective equipment in order to prevent injuries.
Electrocution, commonly occurring when a lift, boom, or scaffold accidentally comes in contact with a power line.
Becoming caught in between equipment, objects, or structures is especially common in excavation sites where cave-ins can cause workers to be pinned in place. These tragic events can lead to amputations, crushed body parts, or worse.
The elimination of these four types of accidents would prevent the deaths of an estimated 631 American workers per year.
What regulations do construction sites have to follow?
In an effort to target and prevent accidents such as those previously described, construction sites are legally required to follow many federally mandated regulations. Job sites come in various different forms and each one has its own unique safety requirements based on the potential hazards. However, there are some basic regulations that span the majority of construction sites under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor. For example. Good practices include:
- Fall protection:
- Understand, recognize, and avoid fall hazards
- Use personal arrest systems wherever vertical drops are more than 6 feet and inspect them before every use
- Ensuring that OSHA-approved fall protections are in place, like guardrails and safety nets
- Personal head and face protection:
- The provision of proper protection equipment
- Wear head protection on-site
- Wear eye and face protection in areas where potentially harmful objects, particles, liquids, or gasses are present
- Keep equipment in good condition and inspect it upon use
- Over half of construction workers encounter scaffolding on the job. There are many scaffolding safety regulations:
- Wear personal protective equipment like hard hats and non-skid boots
- Avoid working on wet surfaces
- Do not use ladders or boxes on top of scaffolding
- Frequently inspect personal fall arrest systems
- Stay below the maximum weight capacity
- Ladders are another cause of many on-site falls and injuries, to prevent these mishaps follow these regulations:
- Always maintain at least 3 points of contact when using a ladder
- Ensure that a member of the team inspects the ladders daily
- All ladders should be OSHA approved
- Electrocution prevention:
- Understand how to locate electrical utilities before starting work to ensure that their equipment will not interfere with them
- Install ground-fault circuit interrupters where there is potential for a ground fault which causes flows of electrical currents
- Share and implement a documented hazard communication
- Understand Material Safety Data Sheets and track every substance and chemical on site
Who is responsible for keeping a construction site safe?
Many of the directions above appear to rest in the hands of the workers, who are showing up on site every day and making their own decisions on the job. However, construction company owners and operators are primarily responsible for preventing worker injuries on site. They are responsible for ensuring all the previous guidelines are being enforced and that workers have the proper training and equipment to uphold them. Furthermore, with multiple contractors working together on a job, there may be many people who share the responsibility for keeping workers safe. Individuals who are commonly responsible for ensuring safety on a construction site include:
- Construction company owners: responsible for following safety measures and OSHA standards
- General contractors or project managers: next line of defense are contractors who must work to minimize hazards on the job
- Construction foreman: the foreman acts as the middle-man between management and the labor force and are responsible for supervising the projects while maintaining security on site
- Subcontractors: those who are assigned a specific task as a part of a larger project must ensure that their division is following OSHA regulations
- Construction site property owners: if the property owner maintains significant control of the site throughout the project, they could be held accountable for accidents
- Architects and engineers: other key players of a construction project who may be responsible for worker safety
As described, the liability of a construction site accident can fall on various players, so it is important to consult an attorney in order to identify who was liable in your specific case.
Keep in mind that safety on a construction site is always deemed to be a joint enterprise. According to OSHA regulations, while a subcontractor always has joint safety responsibility together with the prime contractor, the prime contractor cannot effectively absolve itself of legal responsibility for the injured worker’s damages by merely pointing to the negligence of a subcontractor. The workers also has a responsibility for safety. If the accident is due to worker negligence of 51% or more, the injured worker cannot recover damages.
What should you do if you’ve been in a construction site accident?
- Seek Medical Attention
If you have suffered an injury from a construction site accident, first seek medical attention and stabilize your health. Calling an ambulance will not only ensure you are properly cared for but will also help provide documentation for the event.
- Report the Accident
Next, be sure to properly report the accident. Often, construction accidents go undocumented, which can create future problems in obtaining compensation. You should immediately report the accident to the foreman, your employer, or whoever is in charge. It is important to do this as soon as possible after the event to reduce potential inaccuracies in the documentation and prevent others from getting injured in the same manner.
- Witnesses and Photos
In addition to reporting the accident, try to obtain photographic evidence and write down any important witness and locational information. If you are not physically capable of doing so, ask a coworker. From the witnesses, obtain their names and contact information. Photos of unsafe conditions are important to capture before the condition changes.
- Contact an Experienced Worker’s Compensation Attorney
If you are injured at work, you may be eligible for Worker’s Compensation benefits. These benefits could cover necessary medical care as a result of the accident and work time lost to the injury. In order to receive this coverage, one must file a report of the accident with their employer within a year of the accident. To ensure that you are receiving the full benefits for the Worker’s Compensation, contact a lawyer to represent you.
We are here to support while dealing with an injury. We will make sure your accident is investigated thoroughly and that all the proper paperwork is completed to ensure a successful outcome. Give us a call at 781-599-7477.