Construction site accidents are far too common in New Jersey and across the country. These accidents can cause workers to suffer severe injuries that lead to daunting medical expenses and prevent them from working – and earning income – for an extended period of time. In some cases, an injured construction worker may be unable to ever return to work. In the worst cases, the worker may die.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction accounts for more worker deaths than any other private industry. In one recent year, 828 of the country’s 4,101 private industry worker deaths occurred in construction, or 20.2 percent, the BLS reports. In other words, one out of every five workers who died on the job were construction workers.
In New Jersey, during the same year, construction accounted for 15 of 93 worker fatalities in private industry, or 16.1 percent, the BLS reports. Additionally, BLS figures indicate that 3,400 construction workers suffered non-fatal injuries, including 1,400 workers who needed to miss days away from work.
It is important to understand why these injuries occur and the steps which can be taken by construction site owners, contractors and workers to prevent them.
What Are Common Types of Construction Accidents and Injuries?
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that four types of accidents account for the bulk of fatal injuries in the construction industry. OSHA calls these accidents the “Fatal Four.” These accidents involve:
Falls from heights such as roofs, scaffolding and ladders are common. Slips, trips and falls on the same level due to slippery or uneven surfaces or due to obstacles such as cords or misplaced tools or materials can lead to injuries as well.
Struck by objects
A worker can be struck by falling tools or construction materials such as bricks when working or walking below co-workers who are working above them. Workers can also be injured by objects that drop or swing when being hoisted. In some instances, power tools like saws can cause slivers of wood to fly into a worker’s eyes.
Workers can suffer electrocution by coming into contact with overhead power lines, exposed wiring, overloaded circuits or electrical equipment that has not been properly grounded. Defective or damaged power tools and equipment can also be electrical hazards.
Examples of these types of accidents include being caught in cave-ins, crushed between pieces of equipment or heavy construction materials or getting a body part caught in machinery that lacks proper safety guards.
According to the BLS, transportation accidents are the leading cause of construction worker fatalities in New Jersey, accounting for five deaths during a recent year. The other causes of fatalities are: Exposure to harmful substances or environments (4 deaths); falls, slips and trips (3) and contact with objects and equipment (3).
Construction site accidents can lead to non-fatal injuries that include minor cuts, bruises, strains and sprains and to more serious harm such as fractures, amputations, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injuries.
Five Ways to Prevent Construction Site Injuries
The following are five ways that employers and workers within the construction industry can reduce the risks of injuries and deaths:
- Conduct routine job site safety inspections – Local, state and federal agencies may conduct construction site inspections. Construction companies can take a pro-active approach by doing their own inspections on a daily basis. The daily inspection can cover areas such as scaffolding, railings, hazardous material storage and whether work will bring workers and equipment within close proximity to overhead or underground power lines. The inspection can also ensure that warnings about hazards are prominently placed throughout the site.
- Hold daily safety meetings – The construction industry trade publication, Construction Global, suggests that safety meetings be held at the beginning of each day at construction sites. For instance, a foreman can bring together workers at the start of a shift and update them about what work will be performed, whether there will be changes at the job site, what machinery will be used and where it will be located. In the meeting, workers can ask questions that will help them to better understand the tasks they will be performing and the safety procedures they will need to follow.
- Inspect and require use of safety gear and equipment – In addition to holding a daily safety meeting before the work shift starts, a survey of the site should be conducted to ensure that workers have proper safety equipment gear that is in good condition. For instance, will harnesses be provided to workers who will be working on roofs? Additionally, workers should be provided with and required to wear hard hats, goggles, reflective vests and masks (depending on the job they are doing).
- Make sure workers get food, water and breaks – Many accidents occur at construction sites because workers are not taking care of themselves. For instance, a worker is more likely to fall from an elevated surface if the worker is dizzy or weak from going through a long shift without a break or a chance to eat and be properly hydrated. Construction employers should make lunch and water breaks mandatory.
- Provide training and close supervision – The best way to avoid accidents at construction sites is to provide regular training to workers and supervise their activities. This will ensure that workers are using proper techniques to handle tasks and using the right equipment and safety gear.
Have You Been Injured at a Construction Site? Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you have been injured at a construction site in New Jersey, you should immediately contact an experienced workplace injury attorney who can help you to understand your rights and options. For instance, you may be eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or to bring a third-party liability claim against a non-employer who contributed to your injury. A lawyer will work aggressively to make sure your medical expenses are covered, your lost wages are replaced and that your pain and suffering is compensated to the greatest extent possible.