Construction Site Dangers: Requiring Workers to be on Their Toes at All Times

Construction Site Dangers: Requiring Workers to be on Their Toes at All Times

The Willow Island disaster at the Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia, which occurred on April 27, 1978, is considered the largest construction accident in the United States. The accident occurred as the cable that was lifting a bucket of concrete slackened and pulled the crane lifting it toward the inside of the tower. Concrete and the crane fell on the 51 construction workers working on a scaffold below; all 51 workers died.

Construction works imply two things: progress and danger. Progress because it suggests a booming economy; Danger, because of the many forms of danger construction workers get exposed to, such as dangerous and flammable substances, sharp and heavy tools, heavy machineries, dangerous fumes and dust, exposed electrical wirings, and the height that workers need to reach to do their assigned work.

In 2012, of the 4,175 deaths involving employees in the private sector, 806 were construction workers. Danger of injuries and deaths in work environments is the major reason why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency tasked to enforce safety and health standard laws in all workplaces, requires property owners, contractors, machinery manufacturers and all workers to strictly observe safety measures in doing their job and exercise responsibility in keeping working sites as safe as possible to avoid untoward incidents, which, in reality, are totally preventable.

On the day of the Willow Island accident itself, an investigation team from OSHA arrived and discovered a number of safety lapses that contributed to the accident and deaths:

• The scaffold, as it rose, was bolted to concrete that had just recently been poured and, therefore, had not dried yet;
• Some bolts were missing while the ones used were of insufficient grade; and,
• Without going through proper engineering review, the concrete hoisting system was modified.

One law firm, the Hach & Rose, LLP, said it very precisely when it said that “construction sites can be extremely dangerous, and accidents at these sites can happen suddenly and without warning. Unfortunately, these accidents can leave people seriously injured and struggling to cope with the consequences of their injuries.”

An Iowa personal injury lawyer expresses the same line of thought, saying innocent victims, after an accident, “are often forced to suffer through physical and emotional pain, extensive medical bills, lost income due to time away from work, and other costs. Injuries not only interfere with your life in the present, but can present long term complications and disability, interfering with your quality of life for years into the future.”

These innocent victims of accidents should not be left to suffer on their own, especially if the accident was a result of the negligent or irresponsible acts of another party. Getting a seasoned construction accident or personal injury lawyer, not only after a construction site accident, but after any type of accident, for that matter, may be necessary in order for the victim to pursue the compensation he/she may be legally entitled to claim.

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Workplace Accidents in Construction

One of the reasons construction work is so dangerous is because it frequentlwy involves working with and around heavy equipment, scaffolding, and high voltage electricity. When operating as expected and used by properly trained people, these need not be the cause of workplace accidents. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned.

Construction equipment malfunction is a broad category, which may mean anything from a defective safety harness to an overloaded circuit box. In 2012, 775 people met their death while working on a site. Equipment failure and related causes accounted for about 10% of these fatal workplace accidents in construction, or 78 people. For the same year, more than 183,000 construction workers sustained nonfatal injuries.

Some of the more spectacular equipment failure accidents in construction involve collapsing or otherwise malfunctioning cranes. The most recent ones in the U.S. occurred in 2008, one in Houston and two in New York City, and it was determined that errors were made in the positioning, assembly, or operation of the crane which caused the incidents. The accidents collectively claimed the lives of 13 people.

Construction workers lucky enough to survive an equipment failure event may nevertheless face considerable down time while recovering from their injury, and this means medical expenses and days of work lost. Fortunately, these are covered by workman’s comp insurance, which is mandatory for all private employers in the US for their employees in case they get injured on the job. While workers’ comp wage replacement is certainly less than the normal pay, it is better than nothing, and there is no need to prove fault which hurries things up considerably.

However, according to the website of the LaMarca Law Group, if workplace accidents occurred because of gross negligence on the part of the employer, it may be possible for the employee to file a claim in civil court. This will largely depend on the circumstances surrounding the event. To find out more about what cases would qualify for personal injury litigation, consult with a Des Moines workers compensation attorney. It is the employer’s duty to keep their workplace safe for their staff.

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