Construction sites pose many dangers to workers and innocent bystanders alike. Construction workers are subject to a high level of risk as they are often involved in potentially dangerous tasks such as lifting heavy objects, operating large machinery, and performing job duties at elevated heights. Still, proper protocol and safety practices can decrease a worker or bystander’s risk of injury. When someone causes a preventable construction accident through negligence, he or she may be liable for the victim’s injuries.
When a construction accident causes harm to an employee, workers’ compensation laws will generally apply. There are, however, cases in which the worker can also obtain economic recovery from other parties who may be deemed liable such as companies that manufacture construction equipment that prove to be defective. These parties are known as third-parties.
When an innocent bystander suffers injury as the result of a construction accident, he or she may also be eligible to recover damages by filing a personal injury claim.
Whether you’re a construction worker or merely a bystander who has suffered an injury as the result of a construction accident, you may be eligible to receive economic recovery for your losses. Our attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and determine a course of action.
Common Causes of Construction Accidents
There are perhaps innumerable ways in which a person can suffer an injury at a construction site. Scaffolding accidents are the most common, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all construction accidents. Other common causes include falls, electrocution, and improperly braced trenches.
When attempting to determine the liability for injuries sustained in a construction accident, it helps to understand each party’s responsibilities at the site. In case a construction accident occurs, any of the following parties may bear total or partial responsibility:
- Site Owners
- General and Sub-Contractors
- Architects and Engineers
- Manufacturers of Construction Machinery or Equipment
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) compliance officer
- Know Your Rights
Protective Equipment Saves Lives
It may sound trite, but there’s no denying that proper safety equipment can save life and limb. Some common protections that should never be ignored include:
- Adequate eye protection: Safety goggles–not simply prescription eyewear or sunglasses–are essential on the worksite. Eye injuries are often serious and irreversible. In fact, there are thousands of cases of workers being blinded due to injuries at work that could and should have been prevented by wearing protective goggles or a face shield. These accidents alone add up to over $300 million in costs related to medical care, workers’ compensation, and production losses.
- Adequate ear protection: Dangerous noise levels have the potential to cause ear damage to over 20 million construction workers annually. Nearly $250 million is spent on workers’ compensation claims each year to address hearing loss. That’s in addition to the millions of businesses pay out in penalties and fines after failing to protect their workers from dangerous levels of noise.
- Respiratory protection: Workers are often needlessly exposed to toxic substances that respirators could prevent. Air purifying devices remove these hazards from breathing air, whereas atmosphere-supplying devices send safe air into workers from an external source. Failure to provide this technology when dangerous substances could potentially be released into the air could result in serious illnesses and/or death.
- High visibility clothing: With the hustle and bustle of a job site, sometimes it becomes challenging to see where workers are. Equipping them with highly visible clothing such as fluorescent safety vests, hardhats, pants, and jackets can prevent collisions, crushing accidents, and more.
- Foot protection: Workers on construction sites should be equipped with steel-toed boots that are designed to protect feet and ankles. They can provide protection from numerous hazards, from stepping on nails and other sharp objects to falling objects.
Employers are expected to provide reasonably safe working conditions, even at construction sites, where there are many inherent dangers. By providing proper safety equipment, supervision, and monitoring, employers can defuse many potential accidents on the job site. If you or a family member has suffered serious injuries or death as a result of negligence at the worksite, the aggressive team at Falkowitz Law Firm in Garden City knows just how to proceed.
Plan for When Construction Falls Happen
Planning and being organized are the first steps in a successful construction project. Before getting on a ladder or working on a roof, think about what you are doing. What tools will you need? What safety equipment will help you complete the task? Think about how you will complete the job, what dangers exist and what you will do to prevent these hazards.
Provide Equipment to Prevent Falls
Employers should always provide employees with the necessary tools to get the job done. This includes not only everyday essentials such as power tools, nails, screws, and ladders but also safety gear. Safety gear should be required when an employee is working six feet or higher above the ground. This includes personal fall arrests such as harnesses. Harnesses should be tied off to an anchor. Ideally, the harness should fit the employee and be inspected regularly.
Train to Proactively Prevent Falls
All employees should be trained on proper usage of the tools they use for their job. This is especially true for ladders and scaffolds. For example, ladders should always be placed on level ground with the metal braces in the center locked in place to keep the ladder secure. Employees should always face the ladder and avoid actions such as overreaching and walking the ladder. Scaffolds also need to be stable. They need to be set up properly and employees should avoid standing on guardrails and climbing over cross braces.
Employees should also know when and how to use safety gear. Employers have a responsibility to provide training on these elements since a lack of training is a common cause of accidents on construction sites. Posters, fact sheets, and online training are all useful tools.
Safety Tips for Avoiding Construction Falls
In Long Island and other areas around New York City, construction sites are everywhere. However, just because these sites are commonplace doesn’t make them safe for workers or the surrounding public. Of all the accidents that can occur when construction takes place, falls are the most common cause of death in the industry. Unfortunately, most fall fatalities were preventable.
To protect workers, employers must provide safety training, preventive equipment, and take reasonable measure to ensure a safe construction site. Here are 4 simple safety tips to reduce falls from roofs, scaffolds, ladders, and other unsafe conditions.
Watch for and Address Slip and Trip Hazards
Even though workers may not immediately think of fall hazards when conditions put them at risk of slipping or tripping, the injuries resulting from slip or trip and falls accounts for the most incidents of lost time in the entire construction industry. Workers need to stay alert for ground elevation changes, ask for safety equipment, and check to see if OSHA safety requirements are in being met. Employers need to address dangerous work conditions and correct them quickly or reroute workers to safer work areas until conditions improve.
An employer should plan their work and the entire project in advance to maximize productivity and safety. Planning ahead also allows them to determine the safety equipment needed, calculate a figure for the cost of that equipment, and include that number in their job estimate to make sure workers have access to everything they need to stay safe.
Use Proper Equipment and Safety Gear
Planning the work in advance lets you know what equipment is needed to prevent falls. The proper equipment can make the difference between life, severe injury, and death, so it needs to be available when the risky work begins. Among others, beamers, retractable lanyards, rope-grabs, butterfly anchors, and concrete plunger anchors all function as everyday safeguards for workers on construction sites to prevent injury.
Simply giving workers the right safety equipment isn’t enough – employers need to train their employees on how to use the equipment property, how to care for safety equipment, when to use it, and its limitations. When OSHA issues a violation for fall protection protocol, a lack of training violation almost always issues with it. Training on safe use of fall protection equipment can avoid many falls and reduce the severity of injury or even prevent death when they do occur.
Common Forklift Accidents
Nearly 100,000 injuries involving forklifts occur annually across the country. That means roughly 10 percent of forklifts out in job sites are connected to some type of injury. About 35,000 of those injuries are serious, and nearly 100 of those are fatal. It makes sense to pay attention to the types of accidents that are most common. The most frequent forklift accidents include:
- Overturning: When operators are unable to balance the load on a forklift, overturns are a danger. More than four in 10 accidents involve being crushed by a forklift that has tipped over.
- Being struck by a forklift: Forklifts can move surprisingly quickly in forward and reverse. All too frequently, innocent bystanders cannot get out of the way before experiencing crushing collisions. Over one-third of forklift accidents involve individuals being crushed between the ground and the forklift, or being crushed between two vehicles. Another 10 percent of accidents involve being struck by the forklift.
- Being hit by falling materials: Eight percent of accidents involve boxes or another item falling on operators or bystanders.
- Falls: Forklift operators who fall from their machines are at risk of being run over by the heavy equipment. A small number of accidents involve individuals falling from platforms onto the forklifts themselves.
Federal law requires all forklift operators to be at least 18 years of age. Additionally, operators are legally required to complete training that includes information related to:
- How to safely operate the vehicle, including information related to vehicle stability and capacity, and any limitations the vehicle has;
- How to safely maneuver on ramps and slopes;
- How to appropriately load, stack, and unload materials; and
- Information specific to the site and the potential hazards there.
Common Electrocution Hazards on New York Construction Sites
In New York, construction sites are a common sight everywhere. However, just because they are commonplace doesn’t mean they are safe. Risks to workers, site visitors, and even passersby are everywhere, and just because they aren’t visible doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Electricity is vital on construction sites, so it’s important to be aware of hazardous conditions electricity poses and the risks of electrocution and electrical burns. Some of the most common conditions posing severe risk of injury to New York construction works are extension cords, overhead power lines, and defective equipment.
Extension cords are critical to every construction site, and they often wear down with misuse or without proper maintenance. Normal wear and tear, staples, sharp edges, and other objects may cause more rapid destruction of cords. This can result in exposed wires and put workers at risk of electrocution.
Overhead Power Lines
High voltage power lines often present some of the greatest dangers on construction sites; the risk of contact only increases if workers don’t know how high their lifts or ladders extend. Even if they don’t physically touch a line, electrocution or falls due to shocks can occur if a charge passes through a metal piece of equipment touching the line into the worker. It’s critical to ascertain the height of ladders, lifts, and power lines when working on a construction site.
Equipment must be frequently check for defects and wiring issues. If there is suspicion equipment is damaged or has a defect, cease use and inspect it immediately. Contact with this type of equipment may cause electrocution, electrical burns, or both.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
In construction accidents, multiple parties could be held liable. However, determining who is, in fact, responsible for your accident and subsequent injuries can be confusing. They could be any of the following:
- Construction site owner. A landowner is often responsible for any accidents that occur on the property. The owner has an obligation to ensure that the property is safe and that any hazards are fixed promptly.
- General contractor/subcontractor. Contractors are typically the ones in charge of the construction project. They have a duty to ensure that the premises are safe and to warn workers of any issues that can compromise their safety.
- Machinery and equipment manufacturers. Machines and equipment are supposed to be safe for consumers to use. Manufacturers can be held liable if their product is defective and that defect causes serious injury or death.
- Architects and engineers. Engineers and architects are in charge of designing the building. The building must be safe for the public to use. These professionals must ensure that the buildings meet safety codes. If they are negligent, and their building is deemed unsafe, they could be held liable for any injury accidents.
Workers’ Compensation vs. a Lawsuit
An injured construction worker can either file a lawsuit or file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, but they can’t do both. That’s because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, so by claiming these benefits, a person gives up their right to file a lawsuit and sue their employer. Workers’ compensation benefits employees who caused their own accidents due to their own negligence.
However, if a person was seriously injured on a construction site and they can prove that another party was at fault, filing a lawsuit may be the better choice. By filing a lawsuit, a person may be able to obtain much more compensation than they would by receiving workers’ compensation benefits. A lawyer can assess your case and determine the best course of action.
Call an NYC Construction Accident Lawyer
Construction accidents can cause serious injuries and death. If you or a loved one were involved in such an accident, it’s important that you obtain the compensation you deserve. This means holding the liable parties responsible for their actions. Get legal help from the Falkowitz Law Firm. We can determine the cause of your injuries and protect your rights. To get started, call 844-GET-GARY and schedule a consultation today with a Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer.
If you have suffered an injury as the result of a construction accident, you are responsible for proving your case against the liable party/ies. This usually requires the help of a qualified attorney. It is always wise to seek competent legal counsel after a construction accident to ensure that your rights are timely and appropriately protected. Contact us for a free consultation with a knowledgeable construction injury attorney.