How Serious is the Labor Shortage in the Construction Industry?
August 3, 2021
Construction workers risk injury whenever they are on a jobsite. However, during a labor shortage, the risk of injury rises. The post-pandemic economy of 2021 has resulted in labor shortages in various sectors of the economy, including in the construction industry. Employers are still responsible for maintaining a safe workplace, even during labor shortages.
Employees who have suffered a work-related injury should contact a qualified lawyer to get the information they need to protect their rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Injured workers may also be eligible to claim additional damages from negligent third parties.
The construction industry labor shortage is quite serious. In the next two years, the United States will need approximately one million new construction workers to meet the growing demand, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors organization. California and other areas of the country have labeled the shortage of workers in residential construction as a crisis.
For the past decade, the U.S. construction industry has experienced a slow decline in skilled labor as much of the workforce has gradually aged out, and fewer younger workers are pursuing careers in skilled trades. This has created a skills gap, which the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated. When the pandemic forced millions of employees to work from home, the demand for housing skyrocketed. This put even more pressure on residential homebuilders in particular to find skilled labor.
What is the Impact of the Skills Gap in Construction?
The impact of the skills gap in the construction industry includes the following:
- The lack of experienced construction employees affects the quality of work.
- There are fewer experienced workers available to pass along their knowledge to new workers.
- New hires are most susceptible to getting hurt on the job during a labor shortage.
Employers should be spending more money training new workers in safety procedures and trade skills at a time when they are pressured to meet higher demand. Previously, employers would partner experienced employees with new hires to pass along specific skills and best practices on a jobsite. A lack of skilled employees makes this type of mentoring more difficult.
Another impact of the skills gap is that in some cases, commercial contractors are moving into residential construction, which can create problems. Commercial and residential are two very different types of construction with a different subcontractor base and skill set. Experts have expressed concern about commercial contractors accepting bids for types of jobs in which they lack competency. For these and other reasons, the economic pressure to meet the urgent demand for housing during this labor shortage has increased the safety risks for many construction workers.
What Specific Factors Increase the Risk of Injury to Construction Workers?
Construction projects can only be completed safely when workers are properly trained and equipped and employers follow standard safety practices. Specific factors that increase the risk of injury to construction workers during a labor shortage include the following:
- Employers and contractors may try to overwork the skilled employees they have when they are short-staffed.
- Longer work hours can lead to fatigue, increasing the risk of injury.
- Employers and contractors cut corners and hire unqualified workers to complete projects without proper supervision.
- The less skilled the workforce, the less safe the jobsite.
New workers need safety training; however, employers make opt to skip safety training or fail to provide fall protection in order to stay under budget or meet deadlines. Furthermore, employers may use contractors that are less competent or do not provide safety training to their workers.
Workers are responsible for following safety procedures and remaining aware of hazards. However, at the end of the day, employers, developers, and contractors are responsible for the overall safety of the jobsite. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established regulations for ways to keep construction workers safe. Construction workers who are injured on the job may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What Do Injured Workers Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation?
The Workers’ Compensation Act of Pennsylvania is designed to provide financial benefits to injured workers and protect employers from liability. Employees receive medical treatment and are compensated for lost wages, and employers provide for the cost of such coverage while being protected from direct lawsuits by employees.
There are several facts that injured employees should know about Workers’ Compensation, including the following:
- Workers’ Compensation benefits are not subject to income tax.
- Total disability benefits under Workers’ Compensation can be paid as long as the disability continues. Total disability benefits pay a portion of a worker’s average weekly wages (AWW) up to the state maximum.
- Workers’ Compensation covers medical bills but does not pay damages for pain and suffering.
If someone other than the employer is responsible for an accident on the job, an injured worker may be able to file a claim against that third party in addition to collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Filing a third-party claim can help injured workers obtain damages for pain and suffering as well as compensation for financial losses provided by Workers’ Compensation. Examples of third parties include general contractors, property owners, developers or equipment renters, sellers, and manufacturers. Filing a lawsuit against a third party does not affect an employee’s Workers’ Compensation claim.
Do Injured Workers Need a Lawyer?
Construction workers face a high risk of injury. Most injured workers need a lawyer because many are unaware of their rights under the law. Pennsylvania has very specific rules governing eligibility for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Many times, employers, insurance companies, and their representatives who want to deny or minimize claims are much better prepared than injured workers who need money to pay for medical bills and lost wages. Workers may also be unaware that they may have a valid third-party personal injury claim as well.
The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP empowers injured workers by giving them guidance. When warranted, the firm helps injured workers file suit against negligent third parties. Examples of how Galfand Berger LLP has helped construction workers in the past include:
- $8 million recovery for residential construction site accident. The worker was installing lateral bracing on a house under construction when he fell 18 feet. As a result of the fall, he suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal compression, and was partially paralyzed among other injuries. The injured worker was employed by a subcontractor. A claim was filed against the property owner, who was also the developer and general contractor for the site, because they failed to provide proper fall protection. The property owner also did not report the incident to the OSHA as required.
- $1.055 million settlement for construction worker. The worker fractured his femur, four ribs, and several vertebrae after falling on a jobsite. The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP filed suit against the general contractor and the equipment rental company, successfully demonstrating that the general contractor’s poor excavation created the condition that caused the worker to fall. Furthermore, the equipment rental company failed to properly train the worker.
Labor shortages may tempt employers and other responsible parties to forgo safety training and ignore OSHA requirements to implement fall protection and other safety measures for construction workers.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Give Injured Construction Workers the Information They Need to Protect Their Rights
Labor shortages and other factors may prompt employers and third parties to cut corners, jeopardizing worker safety. If you were injured in a workplace construction accident, a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Galfand Berger LLP can help. Call us today at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online for a free consultation. We are located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.