While construction is one of the most essential industries to maintain the economy’s forward progress, it is also one of the most dangerous industries in the United States for many reasons. As a result, it is vital for everyone working in the construction industry to understand the many dangers they face every day in the workplace. At English, Lloyd & Armenta, our team of attorneys has years of experience helping our clients navigate the California workers’ compensation system and recover from their injuries. This experience has shown us the most common hazards of construction sites, and we want to share this information with you. Learn more about the risks this industry presents and what to do if you sustain a construction-related injury.
Inherent Dangers of the Construction Industry
The construction industry is constantly in action across the United States. Some construction projects involve building brand-new structures while other construction jobs entail the demolition, replacement, or renovation of existing structures. This type of work requires a great deal of manual labor, the use of heavy machinery and dangerous tools, and the navigation of unsafe workspaces.
Employers in the construction industry have a legal obligation to ensure their employees have the tools and safety equipment they need to complete their work as safely as possible. Construction companies must also adhere to a wide range of industry-level regulations to minimize risks to their employees. However, due to the inherently dangerous nature of working in construction, it is virtually impossible to anticipate all the potential ways a construction industry employee could suffer an injury. Read on for some of the most common.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that fall-related injuries continue to be one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims in the construction industry. Falls are possible in many situations and falling even a short distance can result in severe injuries to the victim, particularly if they strike their head on the ground or another object while falling.
Falls can occur in unfinished buildings, from ladders or scaffolds, as well as many other situations. Falls may occur from misuse of ladders, improperly erected scaffolds, lack of appropriate safety equipment, and simple negligence. When a fall occurs, the victim could potentially suffer a wide range of injuries, from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Injuries from Tools and Machinery
The construction industry relies on a wide range of tools, some of which are dangerous even with normal use. A construction worker who lacks experience handling a particular tool could easily suffer a severe injury. Even veteran construction workers may experience unexpected equipment malfunctions and other problems with their tools that result in injuries.
Injuries from tools and machinery can happen for many reasons. When these accidents occur in the workplace, an injured employee can seek recovery from their losses through the workers’ compensation system. It is also possible for defective tools and equipment to cause serious harm. In these situations, injured victims can not only pursue workers’ compensation claims, but may also have grounds for product liability claims against the manufacturers that produced the defective equipment that caused their injuries.
The construction industry requires the use of many specialized vehicles, such as dump trucks, forklifts, front-end loaders, backhoes, cranes, and more. These vehicles are vastly different from standard passenger vehicles and have the potential to cause tremendous harm when mishandled. Vehicle-related accidents can include anything from standard collisions with other vehicles and objects to crushing injuries and runover accidents.
Similar to injuries caused by defective tools, if a defective construction vehicle causes an accident, the manufacturer could be liable under product liability laws. It is also possible for a construction industry employer to absorb liability if they allow an untrained or uncertified employee to operate a construction vehicle.
Working in construction often requires the use of dangerous chemicals, including paints, adhesives, solvents, cleaning agents, and many other hazardous substances. All construction industry employees should refrain from handling unfamiliar substances and always adhere to appropriate safety measures. When substances are misused, workers are untrained, or chemicals unexpectedly spill or leak, workers nearby can suffer severe injuries including physical damage and illness. Some toxic exposure injuries can cause permanent damage, preventing the victim from returning to work or even working at all in the future.
“Struck by” Injuries
It is not uncommon to see construction sites that include unfinished multi-level structures. If a tool, a piece of debris, or any type of building material falls from a significant height, anyone below is at risk of suffering an injury if they are struck by these falling objects. Construction work requires the use of hardhats to protect workers, but there is no guarantee a hardhat will completely protect a person from a falling object and fully prevent injury. Worse, passers-by often do not have access to safety equipment. Falling objects can easily cause traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and secondary injuries from the victim striking the ground after the initial impact.
Crushing injuries are some of the worst possible construction industry injuries. These can occur when a person is caught in between two objects, or when a body part becomes trapped between objects. These injuries may occur between vehicles and solid objects, from falling heavy objects that pin victims to the ground, and vehicle-related accidents. Crushing injuries can be catastrophic, requiring amputation of the affected body part or even fatalities.
Of all American sectors of business, the construction industry has one of the highest rates of fatal workplace accidents. Any of the previously mentioned risk factors can potentially cause fatal injuries. Some workers may die instantaneously from unpredictable accidents while others experience significant pain and suffering before succumbing to fatal injuries.
When a construction worker dies in the workplace, their surviving loved ones can potentially secure survivor benefits from the workers’ compensation claim system. Depending on how the accident occurred, the family may also have the option of filing a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the death to secure additional compensation for their pain and suffering and loss of financial support from the deceased.
Injuries to Bystanders
Construction accidents have the potential to harm more than just construction workers. People who must travel near construction sites or around areas under construction may experience unexpected injuries. When these incidents occur, the victim may have grounds for personal injury action against the construction company responsible for the site. In the event a construction industry employee causes an injury to a bystander because of negligence, the employer would absorb liability for the incident due to vicarious liability laws.
When a bystander is injured in a construction accident, they cannot utilize the workers’ compensation system. Instead, they must pursue civil actions under personal injury law. Success in a personal injury claim requires establishing liability for claimed damages. The plaintiff and their personal injury attorney must identify the party or parties responsible and prove the full extent of both economic and noneconomic damages.
Recovering from a Construction Industry Accident
When you or a loved one have suffered an injury in the construction industry, it is vital to know your options for recovering compensation for the losses you sustained. A construction industry accident can easily cause tremendous physical damage requiring extensive medical treatment. You may not only incur significant medical expenses immediately after the incident, but also long-term medical costs for ongoing treatment. For example, a construction accident can leave the victim in the hospital, causing significant hospital bills and other immediate medical expenses. Their injury may require extensive rehabilitation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and multiple surgeries. During this time, the victim will be unable to work until they recover. This can cause a chain reaction of severe financial strains for the victim and their family.
The workers’ compensation system exists to provide any employee injured on the job with a financial safety net to cover the medical treatment they require, as well as weekly benefits to ensure they can manage living expenses while unable to work. Unfortunately, many injured construction workers encounter problems with the workers’ compensation claims process. They may make mistakes on their claim submissions that result in delays in their receiving benefits, and some employees even encounter undue resistance from their employers. If you are having trouble navigating the workers’ compensation claim process or are unsure of your best available legal options after a construction accident, it is vital to seek legal advice from a reputable attorney as soon as possible.
Take Legal Action with Confidence
An experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney is a tremendous asset after any type of construction industry accident. Your attorney can not only help you file a workers’ compensation claim and increase the chances of securing your benefits as quickly as possible but can also help you explore additional legal options for recovering from your accident. For example, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim if a third party caused your construction accident and workers’ compensation benefits do not fully cover your losses.
If you or a loved one recently suffered any type of injury from a construction accident, English, Lloyd & Armenta can assist in your recovery. Our firm has handled countless workers’ compensation and personal injury cases for our clients throughout the Coachella Valley, and we will put our experience and resources to work for your claim. We understand you will have many questions following a construction-related injury, so contact English, Lloyd & Armenta today to schedule your consultation with our team.