Ways to Keep Construction Workers Safe
July 9, 2021
When it comes to work, construction is one of the most dangerous industries out there. Construction workers face all different kinds of on-the-job dangers, like falls, electrocution, automobile collisions, crushing injuries, cave-ins, and many more. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the majority of fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries that take place are preventable, but in order to reduce workplace injury rates employers must first commit to taking the necessary steps to promote the safety and health of workers.
OSHA reports that every one in five worker deaths is in the construction industry. Each year, the agency compiles a list of the ten most commonly cited safety violations in the industry. Last year, the leading culprits of preventable construction injuries and deaths were:
- Fall protection and training requirements
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Lockout/tagout procedures
- Powered industrial trucks
- Personal protective equipment
- Machine guarding
Despite being known contributors to catastrophic workplace incidents, violations like these continue to happen every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 150,000 construction site injuries and over 1,000 fatalities take place annually.
There are numerous improvements that employers in the construction industry need to make to prevent these incidents from occurring. EHS Today, a leading occupational safety and health magazine for individuals in the service, manufacturing, and construction sectors, has several useful recommendations to inhibit the problematic injury rates. Here are just a few of the publication’s top examples of ways to keep construction workers safe:
- Establish a company-wide safety culture. To maintain an effective safety culture in the workplace, a company must first create and uphold a safety program. Some helpful ways to promote a safety program and culture in the workplace include implementing an incentive program, to take an individualized approach, to enforce safety measures, and to write checklists that workers can refer to for daily reminders
- Give continuous safety trainings. Not only does this help workers to brush up on topics they may be rusty on, but also it aids in keeping everyone up to date on the constantly changing rules and regulations of the industry
- Provide proper tools and equipment. An effective safety program takes into account the importance of having the right tools and equipment before starting any job, no matter how small or big it may be. It is also critical to inspect all tools and equipment for signs of wear and tear or other potential damage before using them
- Compliance tracking. Whether or not a company has an effective safety program in place will not matter if compliance tracking is not underway. Compliance tracking is integral because it ensures that individuals at all levels of the company are following proper safety and health procedures, as well as transparently reporting any problems that arise
- Ensure contractor and subcontractor safety. The bigger the project, the more outside workers (like general contractors and subcontractors) there can be on a jobsite. Having an outside workforce join with a company’s existing one can create several obstacles. Make sure that outside workers not only understand the safety rules and expectations, but also what the requirements are for reporting and compliance tracking
- Keeping a safe schedule. Getting a job finished on time and staying on budget are tenets of the construction industry, but cutting corners and rushing to get things done lead to major problems. There are approximately $13 billion in costs from fatal and nonfatal injuries in the construction industry every year, and the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) estimates that putting too much of an emphasis on speed and cost cutting contributes to endangering workers
- Adapt to the workforce. Current estimates suggest that the construction industry is an aging one. The rate of workers between 25 and 54-years-old, for example, dropped from 75% to 69% from 2011 to 2018, whereas workers age 55 and up grew from 17% to 22% in the same period of time. While older workers are injured at slightly less frequently of a rate than their younger counterparts, data shows that when they are, it tends to be more severe. Some of the most effective ways to prevent injuries in older construction workers is to provide lighter tools and materials and to encourage ergonomically-sound work practices
When employers fail to take the necessary steps to protect the hardworking men and women in the construction industry, accidents – and injuries – happen. The BLS reports that events or exposures like overexertion and bodily reactions, contact with objects and equipment, falls, slips, and trips, transportation incidents, and violence are the top causes behind industrial injuries. While workers can sustain all different kinds of injuries from these events (and others), some of the most common nonfatal injuries are sprains, strains, and tears, general soreness and pain, bruises and contusions, cuts, lacerations, and punctures, and fractures. Other common injuries, which can be nonfatal or fatal include:
- Neck, shoulder, or back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Eye injuries, which include vision impairment or blindness
- Loss of a limb or limbs
- Repetitive motion or strain injuries
Determining Liability in Construction Accidents
If you get hurt in a construction site accident, it is important to take a few steps. First, notify your supervisor. You should do this as quickly as possible and be sure to state the date of the injury, how it happened, which body parts were affected, and be sure to classify it as a work-related injury. Next, see a doctor. Even minor injuries can develop into costly medical conditions that sometimes prevent a person from returning to work. It is also crucial to follow up and keep records of your injury (like keeping track of all medical visits, bills and all other updates that are relevant to the injury).
Next up, it is a good idea to contact an experienced attorney. A construction accident lawyer can help injured employees follow all necessary procedures for filing a workers’ compensation claim, as well as to determine if a valid third party claim is present. Whereas workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits, an injured worker may file a third party claim when a person or entity other than the employer bears responsibility for what happened. Just a few examples of third parties that may be responsible for a worker’s injuries include manufacturers or dealers of forklifts, machinery, or other types of defective equipment, property owners or landlords who failed to recognize or remediate dangerous conditions, and general contractors if the injured worker was employed by a subcontracting unit at the time of the incident.
The attorneys at Galfand Berger have successfully litigated construction accident cases for decades. Here are a few examples of some of our firm’s recoveries:
- Our client was working on a crane when he fell twenty-five feet to the ground and suffered multiple fractures and other injuries, including a burst fracture of the vertebrae, a puncture wound to the bicep, a traumatic head injury, and a shattered femur. Our client’s injuries were so severe that his medical expenses totaled more than $250,000. Our attorney argued that the defendant defectively designed and assembled the crane, which lead to the accident. After mediation, the case settled for $2.25 million.
- A worker suffered a brain injury from blood loss as a result of a forklift’s fork striking him in the back. Our attorneys successfully claimed that the dealer outfitted the truck without necessary flashing lights to alert bystanders and recovered $4.7 million for our client.
If you would like to speak to a member of our legal team about an injury that you or one of your loved ones sustained, contact a representative online now who can help.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLC has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.