The construction industry is one of the most important industries in the economy. Every day, workers put their lives on the line to better our economy and society. With hundreds of workers losing their lives every year on the job and many thousands becoming injured while working, the occupation remains one of the most dangerous in the world. Every year, there are thousands of construction accidents across the United States. Both fatal and non-fatal accidents may be caused by the following:
- Being struck by an object, getting crushed, or run over
- Caught in-between an object
Accidents from Falls
Falls, caused by slips or trips, are one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace and the most common reason for injuries in the construction industry. These falls may cause fatal injuries and are a top reason for emergency visits related to construction site accidents. Falls may be catastrophic and include a drop of more than six feet and may happen due to roofs, scaffolding, or ladders. Falls on the same level may include slippery floors, unstable walkways, or failure to have proper guardrails.
There are a number of safety hazards that contribute to falls, slips, and trips, including:
- Lack of guardrails along walkways
- Views obstructed by a cluttered walking surface
- Inadequate lighting
- Cables or wires that are not properly covered and/or cleared
- Debris in the walkway
- Slippery walkways may be wet because of weather hazards, such as rain, snow, or ice. A walkway may also be slippery due to oil or similar substances.
- A walking surface that has dissimilar traction (loss of traction is one of the leading causes of workplace slips)
- Stairwells and steps that do not have visible edges or adequate lighting
- Unanchored mats or rugs on walking surfaces
The three physical factors involved in slips, trips, and falls are friction, momentum, and gravity. Falls happen whenever you are thrown off balance. Falls account for more workplace fatalities than any other reason. Slips may occur when there is a loss of balance after there is too little friction between your feet and the surface you are walking on or working on. Workplace slips are often caused by a lack of traction. Slips are also more likely to occur when there are weather hazards such as ice and snow, or wet surfaces caused by spills. Trips occur when you are moving with enough momentum and your foot hits an object, throwing you off balance. Trips are more likely to occur in the workplace when walkways are not clear and cluttered. Though an employer may work to reduce unsafe conditions such as these, it still occurs at sites. If you have been involved in an on-site construction accident that results in these injuries, contact an attorney about your options.
Accidents from electrocution
Workers in the construction industry face a significant risk of electrocution. Not only do they frequently handle heavy machinery that requires electrical power or tools to operate, but they are also subject to electrical hazards in the workplace. According to the American Society of Safety Professionals, the primary sources of electrocution are the use of defective equipment or tools, overhead power lines, contact with energized sources, and the inappropriate use of extension and flexible cords.
For example, in 2018, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a report showing that 77 percent of the 325 contract worker electrocutions that occurred over a five-year period from 2012-2016 involved workers employed in the construction industry. Electrical safety issues and general electrical requirements remain one of the most commonly cited OSHA violations.
These injuries occur when a worker is struck by a moving vehicle, equipment, or by a falling or flying object. Struck-by fatalities in construction may also involve heavy equipment such as trucks or cranes. Construction sites usually have workers working on various levels and heights. In some cases, workers may operate cranes to maneuver beams or similar objects from one level to another. Falling tools and construction materials may also lead to struck-by injuries. When beams or objects drop on workers, catastrophic injuries occur. While following safety precautions when on-site and safety equipment such as helmets and safety glasses could help minimize the severity of some construction injuries, certain situations still leave the employees without adequate protection from struck-by hazards.
For example, in 2019, an incident involved two workers working on the I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando, Florida. A worker was killed after he was struck by a 7,000-pound metal beam. In the summer of 2020, five workers were hospitalized after a crane carrying a heavy load of rebar at a Miami construction site malfunctioned and dropped, causing the steel bars to impale two of the workers, according to multiple reports. During the same incident, another worker was injured and suffered non-fatal injuries.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 10 construction worker fatalities are from work zone injuries, which often involve struck-by incidents. These fatal struck-by injuries often happen when a motor vehicle intrudes into a work zone or when construction vehicles and heavy equipment operate within a work zone. About half of the fatal struck-by injuries were caused by a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle. In comparison to non-fatal injuries, about half of the non-work zone fatalities involve a falling object or equipment (51%) and 33% involve a powered vehicle, not in transport.
Caught-In/Caught-Between events occur when a worker is caught, compressed, or pinched between two or more objects. Most construction sites will involve moving heavy slabs and objects from one location to the other. Trenches may also collapse, causing a worker to get caught between a movable object and a stationary one. Injuries sustained from these construction accidents are often serious if not fatal.
Other types of accidents that occur at construction sites may involve:
Accidents From Machinery – Construction work requires the use of heavy machinery. Equipment such as jackhammers, nail guns, drills, cranes, and bulldozers are commonly used at construction sites, all of which may cause serious physical injuries to those using them. Workers may be trained to use these potentially hazardous pieces of equipment but nonetheless find themselves in dangerous situations.
Fires and explosions – Incomplete electrical systems at construction sites may become a hazard for those on-site. Other sources of fires and explosions include unfinished piping and leaking gases. In April 2021, a fire sparked at a construction site in Hallandale Beach, though fortunately, no injuries were reported.
Overexertion – The construction industry requires hours of hard labor, often in extreme weather conditions, either hot, cold, or humid conditions.
Getting hit by a motor vehicle – Construction sites often involve roads or highways and workers at these sites may get hit by a passing vehicle or truck.
While OSHA safety standards have significantly improved the rate of injury and death at construction sites, there are a number of reasons why accidents still occur. The Center for Disease Control noted that multiple contractors (a general contractor and multiple subcontractors) often collaborate to complete the project. There is often increased pressure when a deadline is approaching and workers may increase their pace of work for longer hours. As a result, they may potentially compromise their safety on-site.
While the use of multiple contractors can reduce payroll expenses and increase job flexibility for workers, these employees may also have fewer benefits and less protection than regular employees. General contractors should provide mentoring to their subcontractors and ensure that the subcontractors have sufficient workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.
Since construction injuries that involve a personal injury claim may be complicated, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney after a construction accident about your options. If you are seeking a personal injury attorney to help with your claim, contact us today.