Tag Archives: OSHA regulations

7 Common Workers’ Compensation Injuries on Construction Sites

The construction industry is responsible for the largest quantity of workers compensation claims out of any other industry.

A study from 2002, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, shows that the construction industry had the most missed days of work per year compared to other industries, as a result of occupational injuries or illnesses.

Injuries in Workplace - Missed Days of WorkThe above chart is reproduced using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, and shows the following missed days of work, using a sample of 10,000 full-time workers. See http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2004/mar/wk4/art05.htm

The statistics do not lie.  You can clearly see that the construction industry is particularly chock full of dangers that can cause injury to workers, which consequentially causes absence from work.

This is true because in the construction industry, workers are often dealing with heavy, powerful machinery.  When the stakes are high like that, the slip of a finger has the potential of causing a catastrophic accident.

If this happens, or even if it’s a minor accident, construction workers need to know their rights regarding compensation from their employers, as well as compensation rights regarding third parties that may be liable.

This website is filled with information designed to inform construction workers about their rights regarding workers’ compensation claims as well as safety tips to prevent these accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place.

This article specifically focuses on a number of common compensable injuries or accidents that occur on construction sites, their statistics, and it serves to alert the general public about the need for safety procedures and OSHA compliance in such situations.

In 2014, approximately 1 in every 5 worker fatalities in the private sector occurred in the construction context. 

OSHA specifically cautions employers about the “Fatal Four” types of accidents on construction projects:

  • Falls
  • Electrocutions
  • Struck by Object
  • Caught in/between

While these are the most fatal, there are a number of other common accidents that occur on construction sites, which will be discussed below.

1. Scaffolding Accidents

Scaffolding accidents can arise from collapsing scaffolding, objects falling from the scaffolding, or even from workers falling from heights, especially if the scaffolding is greatly elevated.

When the occupation requires the use of scaffolding at great heights, injuries can be very serious, and the aftermath can be devastating for the injured worker and his family.

If you are injured from a fall from heights, or if  you are a victim of a scaffolding collapse, you likely have recourse, and you should retain an attorney immediately to protect your rights.Scaffolding & birds

Depending on the cause of the accident, the employee may be able to seek compensation from his/her employer or from a third party who was negligent in constructing or maintaining the scaffolding.

In the event that an innocent bystander is injured in a scaffolding accident, that person has numerous options to recover for his/her loss. The statutory limitations governing Missouri Workers’ Compensation claims would not likely apply (assuming the innocent bystander’s injuries did not arise out of the course and scope of employment).

Liability may be easier to prove if OSHA violations are present (also recovery may be greater pursuant to Missouri statute).

Because the use of scaffolding poses so many dangers, OSHA regulations are also stricter.

Employers should implement safety procedures that ensure compliance with the requirements set forth by OSHA, and Employees should take care to follow the regulations.

If you think OSHA violations may be present on the work site, contact one of our attorneys to find out your rights.

2. Electrocution

On average, electrical accidents claim a minimum of 150 lives each year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The three most common causes for fatal accidents as a result of electrocution in the workplace arise from:

  1. Overhead power lines
  2. Wiring involving transformers and other electrical work
  3. Contact with electrically powered machines or tools

The statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which were later compiled and organized by the Electrical Safety Foundation International, show an incredibly lopsided amount of electrical injuries occurring in the construction industry over any other industry.Electrical Fatalities by Industry

The construction industry dwarves all other industries with respect to fatalities resulting from an electrical accidents or electrocution. In fact, the construction industry accounts for more than 3 times the fatalities of the closest competing industry.

Additionally, it may come as a surprise, but many of the electrical accidents that are seen on construction projects come from the use of a crane and contact with overhead powerlines.  In fact, from 1992 to 2006, nearly 1/3rd of the 323 crane deaths involved overhead power line electrocutions.

Electrical accidents and electrocution can be serious and can clearly be fatal. Any construction worker dealing with electrical components or wiring should always ensure that OSHA safety procedures are followed.

In the event that an employer does not have an OSHA-compliant procedure in place, you should educate yourself on the regulations and be sure to comply for your own safety.

Additionally, you should take any necessary measures to prevent potential harm to yourself or your co-workers by reporting these issues to management or to the Division of Labor if management has deaf ears.  Make sure to document any complaints or communications regarding any OSHA violations.

If you or a family member is injured as a result of electrocution, you should contact a workers comp attorney immediately as your right to recover may be subject to certain time restrictions.

3. Crane Accidents

From 1992 to 2006, approximately 323 construction workers were fatally injured in crane accidents.

It doesn’t take statistics, however, to know that a crane can be an exceptionally powerful piece of equipment that can cause a lot of damage.  Construction crews use it to erect enormous skyscrapers and mobilize large materials to heights that would be impossible without the crane’s assistance.

However, this great power can also breed extremely dangerous situations for individuals working on the construction project.

Because cranes are so large and unwieldy, workers sometimes have difficulty controlling its movement, and people can be severely or fatally injured in certain circumstances.

Far Away Cranes at DuskObviously, the proper safety procedure can minimize these damages, but there will inevitably be workers who suffer the consequences of a crane accident.

These injuries are particularly ripe for recovery when they occur on a worksite, as the employer usually has insurance that will take responsibility for payment of any successful workers compensation claims.

In the event, that you are faced with such a situation, contact one of our construction accident attorneys as soon as possible.

4. Back Injuries

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that on average over 1,000,000 workers experienced back injuries per year.

The back is composed of a number of different muscles including the Trapezius, Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Teres Major, Teres Minor, and the Rhomboid Major.  Any of these areas are susceptible to injury, but OSHA states that on average 80% of back injuries occur in the lower back.

What types of movements in the workplace can cause back injury?

There are a number of movements that can cause back injuries including any or all of the following:

  • Twisting from side to side
  • Placing objects that have any appreciable amount of weight
  • Lifting
  • Carrying heavy objects
  • Operating heavy machinery

If you strain or pull a back muscle, you could be debilitated indefinitely, depending on the severity of the injury.

As noted above, these types of injuries occur more frequently on construction projects because of the manual labor involved, heavy lifting, as well as the involvement of machinery or tools that can cause strain to the back. Looking at the numbers gathered by OSHA, we see that it is not uncommon for a worker to face this type of injury.

Back Injuries 1,000,000 Per YearIf you require serious medical work, such as back surgery or rehabilitation as a result of a workplace injury, it is especially important to immediately contact an attorney because the quality of your medical treatment may not rise to the appropriate standard if the employer is responsible for choosing the physician.

Please contact one of our worker’s compensation lawyers to learn about your rights and potential means of recovery.

5. Repetitive Stress Injury

Depending on the worker’s responsibility on the construction site, many positions in the construction industry lend to repetitive bodily motions.  These repetitive bodily motions can cause trauma to the worker, resulting in his/her injury or incapacitation.

A number of different jobs in the construction field can result in this elevated trauma which focuses the stress on a specific body part, and ultimately leads to injury.

Although the most prevalent repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, the construction industry is filled with injuries from repeated trauma to certain targeted or susceptible parts of the body.

St. Louis Arch at SunriseSome repetitive stress injuries arise from repeated use of heavy machinery like a jackhammer or other equipment or tools that call for continuous and/or strenuous exercise over a period of time.

One more common example is when a carpenter is required to continuously use a hammer or power tools. If the carpenter is injured, s/he most likely has a reasonable shot at succeeding in a workers comp claim. The facts of each case should be evaluated by a knowledgeable attorney before determining the validity of your workman’s comp claim. 

Repetitive stress injuries vary widely, and each specific case should be evaluated by a competent workers’ compensation attorney.

If you believe you are suffering from a repetitive stress injury, please contact one of our lawyers today.

7. Accident Involving Vehicles or Heavy Machinery

From 1992 to 2010 there were a little over 400 deaths per year on construction sites on average, which resulted from vehicle accidents and heavy machinery/equipment.

Many of these deaths were not simply the result of a car accident or heavy equipment colliding with a worker.  The machinery and vehicles fatally injured workers in a number of different ways, including collisions between two vehicles, accidents involving one vehicle, laborers getting caught “in between” or the laborer is struck by the vehicle or machinery and wounded.

Vehicle Accident (Car Turned Over)In any case, the use of vehicles and heavy machinery on a construction site can pose serious dangers. As such, it is important for employers to implement a strict safety checklist for the workers to follow.  Failure to train laborers or to implement important safety procedures can unnecessarily put the employees in harm’s way.

In fact, from 2008 to 2010, laborers suffered the most fatal accidents out of any other occupation on construction sites amounting in approximately 63 fatalities over the three year period.  During that time period, construction managers were the most protected on the construction site with a mere 5 fatalities.

Accidents involving heavy machinery are common.  However, this does not have to be the case.  After reviewing the statistics, laborers and other individuals working on construction projects should recognize the great risk that machinery and vehicles pose when working in the construction field.

Noting this danger, workers should educate themselves on the proper safety protocol and take necessary precautions to prevent injuries to themselves and their co-workers.   OSHA has a vast amount of material that directs employers and employees on the suggested actions when involved in dangerous situations on a construction site.

Men & Excavator at DuskFor those that are involved in an vehicle or machinery accident, you may have rights to compensation from your employer based on the Missouri workers’ compensation statutes. You may also have a claim against a third party for negligence or some other cause of action that would allow you recover outside the limitations of the workers’ comp statutes.

If you are the victim of an accident involving a vehicle or heavy machinery, our attorneys would like to hear your story.  We can help you protect your rights.

7. Building Collapse

There are vacant buildings all over the St. Louis area, and as St. Louis continues to grow, these buildings are demolished and replaced with new structures.

The act of reconstructing a dilapidated building, however, can be an extremely dangerous process.

Demolition of BuildingOn top of that, many construction projects are lacking the necessary safety protocol, thereby subjecting the workers to unnecessary harm.

Accordingly, when dealing with construction on an old building, construction workers have to be on high alert because the potential injuries could be catastrophic.

In addition to the danger of the building collapsing, often times the deconstruction of a building requires the use of large machinery.  As we’ve seen from a number of the statistics cited in this article, which are derived mostly from OSHA studies, the use of large machinery creates a threat of potential worker endangerment.

For that very reason, employers need to have safety procedures in place and should be complying with OSHA regulations at all times. 

For those employers that fail to do so, the consequences may be severe, as the statute allows a worker to recover the ordinary amount plus additional amounts if the employer is found to be in violation of certain laws or regulations—contact a workers comp attorney to see if your situation qualifies.

Alternatively, if you have suffered an injury from a negligent worker or due to inadequate or improper safety procedures by your employer, please contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

References

http://files.esfi.org/file/Electrical-Safety-Then-and-Now.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html

http://ehs.okstate.edu/training/oshaback.htm

http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2004/mar/wk4/art05.htm

http://www.nccco.org/docs/default-source/crane-safety-studies/crane-related-deaths-in-construction-and-recommendations-for-their-prevention.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/osch0054.pdf

http://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/CB%20page%2046.pdf

Missouri Construction Law FAQs

Attorney Answers Common Construction Law Questions

St. Louis Attorney Answers OSHA FAQs

OSHA Books

What Laws Govern Missouri OSHA Violations?

There are 28 states that have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) to prepare an OSHA-approved state plan. Missouri, however, was not one of those 28 states.  Because Missouri has not provided a plan that has been approved, OSHA federal laws and regulations are directly applicable to Missouri construction projects.

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Who is Subject to OSHA Regulations?

Contrary to typical belief, are not limited to work performed by public entities or work performed on a public project. OSHA regulations extend to private sector employers, contractors, construction companies and other employers performing work that requires safety for its workers. The imposition of OSHA regulations on private sector employers either comes through an OSHA program set up by the federal government or a plan that has been prepared by the state and approved by U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety & Health Administration.  A number of states have approved plans (about 28), but Missouri is not one of the states that has an approved OSHA plan. Therefore, Missouri utilizes the United States OSHA plan and is governed by the federal regulations set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations.

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What are a few Important Details Regarding OSHA Inspections?

  • An inspection for OSHA violations could occur at anytime. OSHA will not call and give you forewarning.  The investigations are sometimes conducted on the spur of the moment, so do not be expecting advanced notice before an OSHA inspector arrives on one of your projects.
  • There are different types of investigations conducted by the OSHA inspectors. At times the inspector will be physically present and will conduct an on-site inspection.  At other times, if the circumstances lend to it, the OSHA inspector will conduct an investigation via phone or facsimile.
  • The OSHA inspectors who conduct the investigations on behalf of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are well-versed in the regulations. These officers are trained in the regulations, are experienced in working on jobsites, and know the ins and outs of compliance. It will be difficult to hide any violations, so the best course of action is to know the OSHA regulations and comply with the same.

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What Types of Things are OSHA Inspectors Looking For?

Whenever an OSHA inspector visits a job site, the inspector has a checklist that he scours to ensure that the employer is in compliance with the regulations. There is an endless list of OSHA regulations, so where does the employer begin to avoid these claims? The following is a short list of the highest priority items on the OSHA inspector’s violation list:

■    Imminent danger

When an OSHA inspector walks onto the job, they’re looking for a situation where a worker is in imminent danger of bodily harm or injury.

■    Catastrophes / fatalities

It should be no surprise that a catastrophe or a fatality on a construction project may prompt an investigation by OSHA.  When the inspector arrives at your workplace, the focus will be on the instrumentality, or lack thereof, that caused the catastrophe or fatality.  However, the inspector will already be out on the job and will thoroughly inspect all work being performed, as well as the job site in general, to ensure OSHA compliance.

■    Worker complaints and referrals

When a worker makes a complaint to OSHA about his or her safety on a job site, OSHA takes on a duty to inspect the employer’s operations to assure that all regulations are being followed.

■    Targeted inspections – high injury/illness rates, severe violators

If a jobsite has an inordinate amount of injuries or occurrences that subject the workers to injury, OSHA is going to be all over the jobsite scrutinizing any potential cause.  When OSHA has been informed that something is wrong on the project, they will come to investigate and specifically target whatever they believe the root of the problem is.  This is what’s commonly referred to as a targeted inspection. As an employer on a construction project, you need to find the root of the problem before the OSHA inspectors do. If you need legal counsel in preventing OSHA violations, contact an OSHA regulations attorney.

■    Follow-up inspections

Whenever there are violations on one of your jobs, the inspectors will usually follow up the with a subsequent inspection to ensure that the OSHA violations were remedied.  These inspections are usually aimed at the specific violations that previously occurred, so the employer should be aware of exactly what the OSHA inspector will be investigating.

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How is an OSHA Phone or Fax Investigation Conducted?

If the alleged OSHA violation is seemingly minor in the eyes of OSHA, then the administration may simply conduct an investigation via telephone, followed up by a fax detailing the investigation.

If an employer is prompted with such an investigation, time is of the essence.

OSHA requires that the employer respond within 5 working days in writing.  The response must include the problems that the employer was able to discern, and the employer must detail the corrective actions taken to rectify OSHA’s concerns.