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Construction workers have one of the most dangerous types of jobs in the United States. In fact, the National Safety Council reports that the average construction worker has a 75-percent chance of suffering a serious injury and a 1-in-200 chance of being killed in a work-related accident over a 45-year career. Of the 4,370 workplace deaths that were reported in 2015, 937 occurred as a result of construction accidents. This represented a 4-percent increase over the year 2014 and was the highest number of construction fatalities recorded since 2008.
There are many dangers that can commonly be found on construction worksites across America. Some of these hazards are rather obvious, but others may not be so easy to spot. By learning what to look out for, construction workers, their supervisors and the companies they work for can identify hazards before they can lead to a serious injury. Here is a list of some of the most common types of construction accidents among U.S. workers.
Construction workers are often required to work on ladders, scaffolding, roofs, cranes and other types of elevated surfaces, which increases the risk of falls. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls are the top cause of construction worker deaths and injuries in the U.S. In 2015, falls accounted for 364, or 38.8 percent, of all construction worker fatalities. In 2010, falls also caused 18,130 nonfatal injuries.
Construction workers are also at risk of being struck by falling objects, such as unsecured tools, equipment and building materials. Falling objects can lead to minor injuries, such as cuts, bruises and abrasions, or serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries. A total of 90 construction workers died after being struck by falling objects in 2015. That number represents 9.6 percent of all construction industry deaths.
Electrocution is another leading cause of injuries and deaths among construction workers. These incidents frequently occur when a worker comes into contact with overhead power lines on a worksite or exposed wires in an unfinished electrical system. They can also happen when workers are not properly trained in the basics of electrical safety techniques. In 2015, 81 construction workers were killed in electrocution accidents nationwide, accounting for 8.6 percent of all deaths in the industry.
Backovers and crushed-between accidents take place when a worker is run over by a vehicle or piece of equipment, trapped or crushed in machinery, or caught in a collapsing structure. These types of accidents accounted for 67, or 7.2 percent, of all construction worker deaths in 2015.
Equipment-related accidents pose a consistent threat to construction workers. If a crane collapses, a nail gun misfires or a bulldozer overturns, a worker could suffer broken bones, neck and back injuries, punctures, crush injuries or traumatic brain injuries.
Trench collapses are extremely dangerous for construction workers. If the walls of a trench are not properly supported, they can give way and bury workers in tons of dirt, inhibiting their ability to breathe and possibly causing death. Buildings can also suddenly collapse in the middle of construction or demolition, trapping workers beneath the rubble.
Construction workers perform hard labor that often requires repetitive motion. This can lead to overuse injuries of the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Further, many construction projects are conducted during the hot summer months, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Workers can also suffer from frostbite or hypothermia when working in freezing conditions.
Certain construction sites can expose workers to dangerous airborne particles, causing a condition known as pneumoconiosis. The top causes of this condition are asbestos, coal dust and silica. According to OSHA, the risk of silica exposure is highest when workers are sandblasting paint and rust from buildings, bridges and other surfaces. Activities such as drilling, brick cutting and concrete mixing can also cause silica dust to enter the air. OSHA regulations limit the amount of airborne silica that a construction worker can be exposed to during a single shift.
Other common injuries and illnesses caused by construction accidents include:
Construction workers who have suffered a work-related injury may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. These benefits provide medical coverage and a portion of a worker's salary while they recover from their injury at home. In some circumstances, an injured worker may need to file a lawsuit to recover the compensation they need. For example, if a worker is hurt due to employer negligence, it may be advisable to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages. Meanwhile, workers who are harmed by faulty equipment may find relief by pursuing a product liability claim. Injured workers could learn more about their legal options by scheduling a consultation with an attorney.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified construction accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local construction accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.