A construction worker at Ramapo College of New Jersey was severely injured in an explosion involving a pipe-valve on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021. According to reports, the worker was struck in the head by a valve cap while performing a pressure test. He was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, and at the time of this writing, is in critical condition. Construction at the college has been halted until the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and OSHA can complete an investigation.
Our thoughts are with this worker and his family during this scary time. Unfortunately, safety has always been a critical issue for construction and labor workers. Working hands have always been the driving force for American progress, yet the act of securing safe and regulated conditions for the American worker has been “under construction” for over a century. Despite stricter OSHA laws, court room victories and construction site improvement s many workers continue to face daily hazardous working conditions. According to OSHA’s website, in 2019, 5,333 workers died while performing their job, which averages out to be about 15 deaths a day.
At the turn of the century, the nation began taking notice of the workforce plight. Newspapers and books began shining a light on deplorable conditions. Books like Upton Sinclair’s shocking 1906 novel The Jungle, which detailed the horrors workers experienced in Chicago slaughterhouses became an immediate best seller.
Hazardous work conditions continued well into the 20th century. The 1960s saw workers fight for regulations on general job safety. On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act, which gave the Federal Government the authority to set and enforce safety and health standards for most of the country’s workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, is the federal agency that was created under the Act and has the authority to issue workplace health and safety regulations including limitations on hazardous chemical exposure, requirements for personal protective equipment, and requirements to prevent falls and hazards from operating dangerous equipment.
By law, employers must provide their workers with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must comply with OSHA safety and health standards. It also requires that employers must first try to eliminate or reduce any hazards in the workplace by making changes in working conditions.
Additionally, under OSHA, workers have a right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
- Receive proper information and training.
- File a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated or discriminated against by their employer as the result of requesting an inspection or using any of their other rights under OSHA.
According to Garry R. Salomon, a partner and certified civil trial attorney at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, PC, “ the enactment laws protecting construction and other workers have saved thousands of workers lives by requiring employers to provide safety equipment and protocols to their workers and requiring workers to follow them. Yet, cutting corners, saving money and short cuts result in injury, disability and death. There is much work to be done in this area. “
Normally, New Jersey Worker’s Compensation laws provide workers and their families with limited benefits; however larger settlements can be achieved if an employer willfully ignores or violates OSHA laws or if a third party was responsible. Injured workers can find out whether they qualify for larger settlements by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer who often can with the help of OSHA experts determine if an injured worker will qualify for a separate pain and suffering award.
The injured construction worker legal team at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, PC have the requisite skill and experience to provide such assessment as part of a free consultation.
About the Author: Garry R. Salomon is a New Jersey licensed lawyer and partner at the law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, PC headquartered in Teaneck, NJ. He is a board member of NJA and Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil Trial Attorney and an expert in the area of Personal Injury Law.