Construction Site Injuries
Construction workers often carry out tasks that come with a certain level of risk, such as lifting heavy objects, operating heavy machinery, and working at heights. Given the dangerous nature of their work, it’s imperative that those responsible for worker safety adhere strictly to safety protocols. However, that has not always proven to be the case. According to the United States Department of Labor, over 5,000 workers died on the job in 2019 alone, and around 20% of those worker fatalities in the private industry were from construction. In other words, based on 2019 data, the construction industry accounts for one in every five worker deaths in the United States.
Those numbers are scary, and frankly unacceptable. Construction workers should not have to fear for their lives every day that they go to work. Although some laws are in place to help protect workers, often workers are left to their own devices when it comes to safety and accident prevention. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of construction site injuries and what causes them, and learn what you can do about it if you have been injured in an accident on your work site.
Causes of Construction Site Accidents
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are four leading causes of injuries on a work site, which are:
- Falls: According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), falls are the leading cause of construction worker fatalities, making up one-third of deaths in the industry. Construction site falls can occur for many different reasons––if workers are completing jobs on unsecure scaffolding, ladders, or roofs, for example, it can result in a disastrous fall. Falls can also occur if workers lose their footing while working from great heights without a safety harness, or if they stumble into an uncovered hole or ditch on the work site. It’s essential that employers create safe working environments by properly training their workers and ensuring that all equipment is safely secured before the work starts.
- Falling objects: Although hard hats are required on most work sites, even small objects falling from a great height can cause tragic injuries for workers and any pedestrians passing by the work site. Because of gravity, a falling object gains 22 miles per hour every second, which is why workers and passersby can be severely injured or even killed if they are struck by debris or other objects that fall from above.
- Electrocution: Although all construction workers run the risk of being electrocuted, power line installers, electricians, roofers, plumbers, and carpenters are at higher risk. If power lines are not properly protected and de-energized, and safety gear is not used, workers run the risk of becoming electrocuted.
- Trapped “In Between”: These types of accidents occur when a construction worker is caught in between two heavy objects or is pinned down by a heavy object. These accidents can happen when cranes or heavy machinery are not properly switched off, or are left unattended on work sites.
Known as the “Fatal Four,” the above causes are the most common ways workers are injured in construction site accidents. However, there are several other dangers on a work site that can result in severe injuries. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Equipment-related accidents: Working on job sites means using power tools, hand tools, and other heavy machinery that requires specific training. If an inexperienced worker uses one of these tools, the machine unexpectedly kicks back, or a mechanical failure occurs, it can cause a serious accident.
- Fires, burns, and explosions: Many construction sites have gas lines and power lines that can cause fires, burns, or explosions. Welding burns are a particularly common occurrence and can cause serious injury.
- Heavy lifting: Lifting heavy materials on construction sites can cause immediate injuries as well as prolonged ones. Serious back injuries can occur from lifting too much weight, which can have residual effects that can impact an individual, their ability to work, and their quality of life years after the accident occurs.
- Improper training: Construction can be a dangerous industry and requires specific training for almost every job. OSHA requires the employer to train their employees to know and avoid unsafe work conditions, as well as the rules and regulations of their specific work site. If employers do not properly train their employees, it can lead to unfortunate and preventable accidents.
If you’ve been injured in a construction accident, it is important to ensure that you are following the right steps when reporting your accident and possible injuries. You must first report your accident to your employer. Informing your employer about your accident will allow them to follow proper protocol and report the incident to OSHA or New York State.
After reporting your accident, you may want to pursue legal action. To request a FREE case evaluation, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak to one of Block O’Toole & Murphy’s lawyers today. Our attorneys are well versed in personal injury law and labor laws and have the best track record in construction site injury cases in New York, including a $110 million jury verdict and a $15 million settlement.
Common Construction Site Injuries
Because of the risky nature of construction work, workers are unfortunately subject to a variety of potential injuries. Working with or near heavy machinery, operating power tools, working on top of tall buildings or in trenches; all of these things are potential hazards for construction workers, and the injuries that occur on construction sites can be devastating. These can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Broken bones or fractures
- Burns from fires, explosions, or electrocutions
- Cuts or lacerations from exposed tools or machinery
- Eye injuries or vision loss from being impaled by objects or exposed to dangerous chemicals or gases
- Toxic exposure to chemicals
- Head or traumatic brain injuries from falling objects
- Loss of hearing from loud noises on a construction site
- Paralysis or spinal injury from falls or heavy lifting
- Chest or neck injury
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The severity of injury and type of accident can vary depending on the job being performed and the circumstances surrounding the accident. Many injuries can be avoided if proper safety protocols are followed. Construction site owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and others responsible for worker safety are required to follow safety laws and regulations. If employers choose not to follow them, workers can suffer tragic and avoidable accidents.
New York Laws That Protect Workers
Construction workers are protected under a series of labor laws in New York State. In general, if you are injured while on the job, whether or not negligence played a role in causing your accident, you are entitled to financial compensation through your state’s workers’ compensation program. If you get into an accident on a job site, a work accident lawyer can help you understand what laws apply to your case. These laws exist to regulate safety protocols on work sites and to hold property owners, contractors, and construction companies responsible if injuries happen as a result of unsafe work sites. Some of these laws include:
This law provides protection to construction workers who have been injured in gravity-related accidents, such as falls or being struck by a falling object. The law has been interpreted over time to require that a worker must be provided with the proper safety equipment and training to prevent fall-related accidents; if a contractor or construction site owner does not do so and an accident occurs, they could be found fully responsible for the accident.
These two laws revolve around construction site safety. Labor Law 200 specifies that employees have the right to a safe work environment. It requires that employees work on a job site that provides “reasonable and adequate protection” to their “lives, health and safety.” Similarly, Labor Law 241 states that contractors or construction site owners have a responsibility to keep workers safe from hazards. It states that construction, excavation, or demolition sites must be equipped and operated in a way that provides “reasonable and adequate protection and safety” to the workers employed there.
This law was created to ensure that construction sites are safer, better maintained, and establish and enforce new safety training requirements. For example, because of this law, construction and demolition workers at most work sites are required to go through 40 hours of site safety training. Supervisors must go through 62 hours. Employers are subject to fines if workers do not receive the required site safety training.
To learn more about national and local laws protecting construction workers in New York, please visit our Construction Accident Laws page. These laws are in place to protect workers and passersby on job sites. Whether you are walking by or working on a construction site, it’s important to know what your rights are. If you have been injured on a construction site, it’s best to seek legal counsel.
Results for Victims of Construction Site Injuries
The law firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy fights aggressively for the victims of construction site accidents. Our attorneys have top results in construction accident lawsuits and have obtained well over $1 billion in results for clients. Select results include:
- $110,000,000 jury verdict for a cyclist who was paralyzed after he was hit by a falling railroad tie while construction work was being performed overhead on the J/M/Z subway line
- $15,000,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the family of an HVAC technician who tragically died in a construction site accident
- $12,000,000 settlement for a tunnel worker who was working on a subway extension project when he became seriously injured in a construction site fall
- $11,500,000 settlement for a construction worker who was cut by a defective circular saw missing its safety guard and suffered severe wrist injuries
- $11,000,000 settlement for a Brooklyn construction worker who sustained serious pelvic and spinal injuries due to falling three stories after stepping on an unsecured hole covering
- $10,875,000 jury verdict for a 35-year-old union worker who fell off a rooftop and was impaled by an unguarded steel rebar
- $10,500,000 settlement for a 50-year-old man who was working in Staten Island and was struck by a defective saw that kicked back; later, he tragically died from his injuries
- $7,400,000 settlement for a construction worker who sustained severe shoulder, knee, and back injuries that later required surgery after he fell from a steel beam while trying to unscrew an HVAC unit
- $7,300,000 settlement for a worker who was performing steel demolition and fell to the ground after a steel beam landed on him, unfortunately leading to the amputation of his right arm
- $7,200,000 settlement for a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident who tragically died after falling down an elevator shaft after it stopped working
If you were seriously harmed in a construction-related accident in New York, it’s best to speak with a construction accident lawyer to discuss your case and understand your legal options. To request a FREE case evaluation, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak with a Block O’Toole & Murphy lawyer today.