The amount of money being put into new construction in this country is higher than it’s been in the past seven years. Construction spending in both the private and public sectors has jumped up to its highest level since March 2008. Of course, that means more work for construction workers here in Indiana and Illinois. Which is a good thing.
Last month, for example, we learned that the big expansion of the Illinois Tollway to O’Hare International Airport is back on target. That’s just one example of blossoming construction projects in our part of the country. Another: it’s been announced that Illinois is going to spend a record-breaking $1.4 Billion in 2016 on several big, private construction projects.
So, even though winter is fast approaching bringing with it a lull in construction activity, there is a lot of construction work out there for those who work in the construction trades. Construction workers in Indiana and Illinois should have lots of opportunity in the next couple of years or so.
Which is good news, but with it comes a concern that these folk are kept safe from danger while working on their construction job. After all, construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs someone can undertake here. There are high risks of all sorts of serious injuries and even a high risk of being killed while working a construction job.
Construction Workers Depend Upon Employers for Safety
It’s true that there are an amazing number of laws, codes, rules, and regulations in place to protect construction workers from harm. However, these protections on the books are only as good as how they are implemented by those in charge of the job area and work site. Construction workers are dependent upon contractors and subcontractors to make sure these protections are being carried out and respected.
There are people who have a legal duty to make sure that workers on a construction site are being kept away from danger. For instance, OSHA regulations describe who this person is on a job site.
Under 29 CFR 1926.32(f) a “competent person” is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
Pursuant to 29 CFR 192.21(b)(2), “the employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”
Who makes sure that these employers are following safety laws? In Indiana, the Indiana OSHA monitors construction site safety. However, the state agency was recently evaluated and found to have only completed 56% of its inspections for 2014. Which means that construction safety isn’t being monitored in Indiana as well as it could be.
Wondering about Illinois? Their IDOL-SIED rate was even lower: in 2014, only 30% of Illinois’ scheduled safety inspections actually happened.
According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there was an 18% increase in Indiana construction worker deaths from injuries sustained on the job in 2014. Given the increase in construction work, the reality that many employers put profits over people, and the fact that agency safety inspections aren’t happening as they should, it’s logical that there will be greater dangers facing construction workers in 2016 and that more construction workers are going to be seriously hurt or killed on the job.
Victims of Construction Accidents
Construction workers are educated in specific skills and are savvy in working machines and within environments that the untrained worker cannot. Consider the training and expertise that is needed for the following kind of construction jobs, as a few examples, and how much danger comes with this kind of work:
1. Demolition. Here, workers must size up the project and determine the right amount of dynamite to use and how to use it for a safe demolition.
2. Excavation management. Workers in excavation work specialize in operating heavy machinery like bulldozers, Bobcats, drag line excavators, and cranes.
3. Masonry. These workers are skilled in working with concrete, brick, and other materials. They know how to pour concrete, how to maneuver concrete as it oozes out of concrete trucks and work with it from forming foundations to putting the final touches on a sidewalk or patio. They know how to work with the different kinds of concrete. Brick masons, similarly, understand the intricacies of working with brick, not only to build but to repair things like chimneys, floors, fireplaces, walls, and more.
When someone is hurt on a construction site, that accident victim may suffer life-altering injuries or even life-ending ones. Sometimes, workers’ compensation insurance will cover the accident. Both Indiana and Illinois have passed workers’ compensation laws to protect workers hurt on the job.
Sometimes, personal injury laws (like product liability) and wrongful death statutes come into play, as well. Determining how the accident victim’s medical insurance jives with the worker’s compensation coverage can be a complexity to resolve legally, as well (i.e.., subrogation).
Damages may be solely the responsibility of the contractor or subcontractor, but the employer may not be the only one responsible for what has happened. Investigations into the incident sometimes reveal that the liability for that event is shared by other companies, as well. They should be made to cover their liability in the accident too.
Construction work is dangerous! Construction workers in Indiana and Illinois need to be kept safe as they work; nevertheless, all too often employers put profits over people and construction workers get hurt. Be careful out there!