Common Types of Construction Accidents
Construction sites are often littered with hazards. With such an inherently dangerous industry, it is vital for everyone on site to strive for optimal safety standards.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Falls are by far the leading cause of construction worker fatalities - at nearly 39% in 2015. Uncoincidentally, fall protection is the number one cited standards violation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That means that with perfect fall protection practices, 364 lives could have been saved in 2015. There is no excuse for negligent safety standards leading to the deaths of workers. Those who are fortunate enough to survive such falls are often permanently disabled and unable to return to work.
"Heavy machinery" is a broad term that applies to the various construction vehicles used in major projects. Examples include:
- Cherry pickers
- & several others
Needless to say, with such powerful machinery comes the risk of a serious injury. The workers who operate these machines need to be properly trained according to OSHA's safety standards. But the reality of the situation is less than stellar - accidents involving "powered industrial trucks" were the #6 most commonly cited OSHA safety violation in 2016. Causes of such accidents may include machinery unintentionally starting during repairs, and hands being exposed to the moving parts of such machinery.
Ladders contribute to the vast majority of fall accidents on construction sites, at 81%. Ladders also ranked at #7 in the same OSHA list from 2016. Do you see a pattern here? Far too many construction accidents could be avoided by more responsible safety standards.
At many construction sites, the air may be polluted with toxic gases, fumes, mists, and dusts. Workers who lack the proper respiratory protection equipment are at a heightened risk of serious illness from being exposed to such toxins.
Falling Tools and Debris
In OSHA's list of "Construction's Fatal Four" accidental death causes, "struck by object" ranks second behind falls at 9.6%. This category also includes incidents in which an employee was struck by a moving vehicle. Proper safety standards greatly reduce the risk of tools falling from above and striking a worker. Examples of OSHA requirements include:
- Face shields
72% of scaffolding accidents are attributed either to falling objects or planking or support giving way. Scaffolding violations also rank #3 in OSHA's list of frequently cited safety standards violations.
Building collapses may not be as common as some of the causes listed above, but the results are just as devastating. "Caught-in/between" is listed as #4 on OSHA's Fatal Four list, accounting for 7% of construction worker deaths. This category includes fatalities caused by workers "caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material."
The accidents described above often lead to serious injuries. Some of the more common ones include:
- Head injuries - Falling objects often lead to serious head injuries, especially when workers on the lower level lack the proper head equipment. Examples include concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and lacerations.
- Spinal cord injuries - Falls from ladders, scaffolding, and raised platforms often lead to devastating spinal cord injuries. Such injuries may cause paralysis (partial or full), brain damage, and other permanent physical disabilities.
- Burns - Improperly maintained construction sites are often rife with fire hazards, such as exposed wiring. Workers often suffer from serious burn injuries when fires break out, and many are left with permanent scarring for the rest of their lives.
- Lacerations - Many of the serious injuries listed here involve lacerations. Again, lackadaisical enforcement of safety standards increases the risk of getting a serious cut or laceration. Hazards may include defective or poorly maintained equipment and exposed nails.
- Broken bones - Accidents involving heavy machinery or falls are likely to cause broken bones.
- Loss of limbs and digits - Many accidents involving heavy machinery also lead to necessary traumatic amputations. Workers who are caught in between or compressed by objects and heavy machinery may experience an amputation during the incident or require a surgical lifesaving one in the emergency room.
- Hearing loss - In a construction site with heavy machinery and building equipment, there is constant heavy noise pollution. Workers who neglect to wear earplugs in such environments are in extreme danger of partial or full permanent hearing loss.
- Vision loss - A lack of proper safety goggles may expose workers to toxic chemicals and other hazards which can impair their vision.
- Repetitive motion injuries - Many workers eventually acquire chronic localized pain as a result of frequent heavy lifting in repetitive motions. Chronic back problems are especially common.
- Heat stroke - Working long days in the blistering heat can quickly take its toll on some workers. Construction workers don't get days off because it's too hot. Intense physical labor in extreme heat can quickly cause heat stroke, especially if the worker hasn't been drinking enough water.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
It depends. In a Workers' Comp hearing, your employer's insurance company will be represented by an experienced attorney. Like all insurance companies, they will look for any reason to limit or deny your coverage. For simple claims involving minor injuries which might only keep you out of work for a couple of weeks, a lawyer might not be necessary. But major injuries often require major compensation. In these cases, it's best to have a legal expert in such matters by your side.
If your accident was caused by a party other than your employer, it would be wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss the details of your case. He or she can help you to recover any damages which worker's comp won't cover, and to hold third parties responsible for their negligence. Construction site negligence endangers the lives of everyone on the site, and sometimes even the lives of innocent civilians in the area. It's crucial that negligent parties face consequences for their carelessness.
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