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Common construction injuries and legal remedies
The construction industry is one of the largest industries in the United States. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the construction industry has more than 670,000 employers with over 7 million employees creating roughly $1.3 trillion worth of structures every year.
The sheer size of the industry, coupled with the labor-intensive nature of the job, means that injuries are all too common. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 1,000 construction workers are killed in work-related events every year and 1 in every 50 workers is forced to miss work or adhere to a job restriction as a result of a work-related injury.
The “fatal 4” hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified 4 hazards responsible for more than half of construction worker deaths. These hazards, termed the “fatal 4,” include:
- Falls. Construction workers often work from high places (scaffolding, ladders, roofs, etc.). Falls accounted for 39.2% of construction worker deaths in 2017. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most commonly violated safety and health regulation in the construction industry is the regulation requiring employers to provide fall protection systems.
- Being struck by an object. From tunnels caving-in to falling equipment, construction workers risk being struck by falling objects every time they arrive at a construction site.
- Electrocutions. Power lines, transformers, and converters are the leading subgroup of electrical parts that result in fatalities among construction workers.
- Getting caught in or between equipment. Another commonly violated safety and health regulation in the construction industry is the regulation requiring employers to provide machine “guards.” These guards are designed to protect machine operators and other employees from getting caught in machines.
Shockingly, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries found that over a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 75% likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury and a 1 in 200 chance of being fatally injured on the job.
Common injuries in the construction industry
Specific injuries in the construction industry run the gamut from minor to catastrophic, and include:
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries
- Knee and ankle injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Respiratory disease
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Tips for preventing construction accidents and injuries
OSHA has been responsible for the enforcement of workplace safety and health standards in the US since its establishment in 1970. OSHA recommends the following tips to help prevent being injured or killed by 1 of the fatal 4 construction hazards.
Prevent injuries from falls by:
- Wearing personal fall arrest equipment
- Covering and securing floor openings and labelling floor opening covers
- Using ladders and scaffolds safely
Prevent injuries from falling objects by:
- Never positioning yourself between moving and fixed objects
- Wearing high visibility clothes
- Wearing safe headgear
Prevent getting caught in or between equipment by:
- Never entering an unprotected trench or excavation 5 feet or deeper without an adequate protective system in place
- Making sure the trench or excavation is protected either by sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems
- Making sure machine guards are in place
Prevent electrocutions by:
- Locating and identifying utilities before starting work
- Looking for overhead power lines when operating any equipment
- Maintaining a safe distance from power lines
- Not operating portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double insulated
- Using ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection
- Being alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds, or other platforms
What happens if you’re injured in a construction accident?
If you’re injured in a work-related construction accident, you may be able to receive compensation for your physical injuries and your mental suffering. Options include:
Filing a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides benefits to employees injured in the course of employment. Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance regardless of how many workers they employ and regardless of whether those workers are part-time or full-time. There are two types of benefits that an employee can recover: necessary medical expenses and wage loss benefits.
Filing a third-party lawsuit. The trade-off for receiving workers’ compensation benefits is that you can’t sue your employer or co-worker for your work-related injury. However, if you’re injured by a third party (someone other than your employer or co-worker), you can file a workers’ compensation claim and file a separate third-party lawsuit against the person or entity that caused your injury. To win a third-party lawsuit, you generally have to prove that the third party was negligent.
Filing a wrongful death claim. If an employee dies while working, the employee’s family can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
Do I need an attorney?
Whether you’re filing a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit, there are specific deadlines you must meet. If you fail to meet these deadlines, your case may be thrown out and you will recover nothing. This is known as the “statute of limitations” and can vary by state.
To learn more about the specific laws that apply to your case, visit our State Personal Injury Guides page. We also recommend using our free online directory to locate an experienced attorney to help with your claim or lawsuit so that you can focus on getting healthy.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.