There are many dangerous jobs in several inherently dangerous industries in the United States, though each is important to our country’s economic health. It is vital for anyone working in these industries to understand the risks their chosen line of work entails. To help, government agencies at the federal and state levels regulate every sector of business in the country, and they gather important data regarding dangers, known risks, general accident rates, and fatal accident rates for each. Such agencies include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the US Department of Labor, and analogous agencies operating in every state in the country.
These agencies regularly publish their findings concerning workplace safety and have determined the most hazardous industries for workers. Among these dangerous industries, the construction industry frequently ranks the highest when it comes to workplace injuries and fatal accidents. If you work in the construction industry in any capacity, it is vital to understand the risks this line of work entails and to know what to do if you suffer an injury in the workplace.
Why Is Construction So Dangerous?
Workers in the construction industry perform many essential functions in the United States. Some construction projects involve preparing undeveloped land for building, erecting new structures, renovating or modifying existing structures, and demolishing defunct buildings to make way for new construction. Each of these types of construction jobs is inherently dangerous due to the materials, tools, and methods required for completing the work they entail. Everyone working in construction, from manual laborers to site supervisors, must understand the risks their industry presents and use appropriate caution at all times.
However, even when construction industry employees use the utmost care in completing their job duties, unpredictable accidents can occur and cause devastating injuries. Some construction accidents result from defective products, equipment malfunctions, natural disasters, or even the negligent actions of third parties outside of the construction industry. When any type of construction accident occurs, those affected face a difficult road to recovery. Liability for a construction accident is not always clear. In addition, workers’ compensation laws shield employers from liability for injuries their workers sustain in the workplace unless such injuries result from intentional misconduct or failure to uphold industry regulations.
Most Common Causes of Construction Accidents
OSHA and other agencies have gathered a tremendous amount of data related to workplace accidents in the United States. This research has concluded that there are several prominent risk factors facing employees of the construction industry, including:
- Falls. Working in tall, unfinished buildings naturally poses a risk of sustaining fall-related injuries. Falling injuries may also occur due to improperly constructed scaffolds, improperly used or defective ladders, and many other causes. A fall can easily result in traumatic brain injury, broken bones, or death.
- Injuries from falling objects. When you work on a construction site, there is a risk of suffering an injury from falling debris, tools, and equipment. Even if you wear a hardhat as required by construction industry regulations, you may still suffer severe head injuries from falling objects. Large, falling objects can also cause crushing injuries to various other parts of the body.
- Injuries from chemical exposure. Construction often requires using dangerous substances such as adhesives, solvents, cleaning solutions, paints, and many other chemicals. A spill, leak, or other mishandling of these chemicals can potentially result in severe physical injuries or illness from toxic exposure.
- Crushing injuries. A construction worker can potentially suffer a crushing injury if their body or a part of their body becomes trapped between two objects. A crushing injury can also occur if a large object falls on top of a worker and traps them against the floor. These injuries may also happen when construction vehicles back up too close to hard objects, pinning workers between the surfaces.
- Vehicle accident injuries. Construction sites often require the use of heavy vehicles specialized for construction work. Front-end loaders, backhoes, dump trucks, and forklifts are just a few examples of construction vehicles that can potentially cause severe workplace accidents. Only workers with the appropriate credentials and training should operate these vehicles to minimize the chance of a serious accident occurring.
- Electrocutions. Working in unfinished structures often requires navigating around unfinished electrical systems. Exposed wires or unfinished electrical supply systems can potentially cause severe electrocution injuries. Electrocution can not only cause severe pain and burns, but also nerve damage or even cardiovascular problems for the victim.
These are only a few examples of the types of injuries that occur within the construction industry. Construction-related accidents remain a leading cause of workers’ compensation claims throughout the United States. Together, these incidents contribute significantly to the number of missed days of work throughout the country and result in billions of dollars in medical costs, lost wages, and other economic damages to victims. Additionally, some construction industry accident victims who experience catastrophic injuries may be permanently unable to return to the workforce.
Construction Industry Employers’ Duties to Their Employees
No matter the industry, employers have certain legal duties to their employees. First, they must provide them with the safest possible working environment and promptly address known safety issues in the workplace. Second, they must provide employees with the materials they need to file workers’ compensation claims after suffering an injury at work. It is vital for all employers to fulfill these obligations, especially employers operating in a dangerous field like construction.
When a construction worker suffers any injury on the job, they should report the incident to their supervisor immediately. The supervisor must ensure the worker receives prompt medical attention and all the materials they will need to file a workers’ compensation claim. In California, every employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance, which operates much like other forms of insurance coverage. The insurance carrier charges a policyholder a premium rate based on their perceived level of risk—the higher the risk, the higher the premium. When an employer has many employees file for workers’ compensation due to workplace injuries, this tells the insurance carrier that the employer is a high-risk policyholder, and they may adjust the employer’s premium rate accordingly.
Unfortunately, some employers do not fulfill their obligations to their employees when it comes to workers’ compensation claims. Some cause intentional delays with their employees’ claims to avoid insurance rate increases or refuse to provide employees with workers’ compensation claim forms. Others take more dramatic negative measures against employees and may fire them, reduce their pay, cut their hours, or transfer them to different workplaces. These actions legally qualify as “retaliation,” and employers who engage in this behavior face severe legal consequences for the retaliatory actions they take against employees.
The Importance of Legal Representation Following a Construction Industry Accident
If you or a loved one recently suffered a workplace injury while working in the construction industry, you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. You also have the right to do so without facing undue retaliation from your employer. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself after suffering an injury at work is to consult a workers’ compensation attorney. Immediately after the injury, report the incident to your supervisor and request the materials you need to file your workers’ compensation claim. If your employer interferes with your claim in any way, your attorney can help you address the situation through the appropriate channels. If your employer is helpful and fulfills their duties appropriately, you can still rely on your workers’ compensation attorney to assist you with filing your claim and handling the legal proceedings to follow.
Once the California Division of Workers’ Compensation receives your claim, they will review it and determine your eligibility for benefits. Workers’ compensation typically provides full coverage for medical expenses resulting from a workplace injury, as well as weekly benefits to compensate you for lost income while you recover. In most cases, benefits are limited to two-thirds of the claimant’s average weekly wages and may continue for up to 104 weeks (two years) from the date the injury occurred. If a worker dies from a workplace injury, the California workers’ compensation system can award $10,000 to their surviving family in funeral and burial expense coverage and up to $320,000 in lost income compensation, depending on the number of the victim’s dependents and their incomes.
A California workers’ compensation attorney is an invaluable asset as you navigate the workers’ compensation claim system. They can help you file your claim, address any issues with the California Division of Workers’ Compensation, and handle any unexpected issues regarding your employer. Additionally, if your workers’ compensation benefits are not sufficient to fully cover your damages, your attorney could help you explore additional legal actions that might aid in your recovery. Options may include a personal injury claim against the party responsible for your injury if it happened due to the actions of a third party outside of your workplace.
Find a Skilled Attorney Today
At English, Lloyd & Armenta, we understand how challenging it can be to navigate a workers’ compensation claim process while dealing with the aftermath of a construction injury. If you need assistance filing your claim, or if you have encountered an unexpected problem when filing your claim, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney who can guide you through the recovery process after a construction accident.