Hoosiers know that we need construction for our economy to grow. When you drive past new construction of a roadway, house, store, office building, event arena or college campus or hospital, you know that Indiana is moving forward. That’s a good thing.
People in our part of the country — Indiana and lllinois — know that we depend upon construction workers and their general contractors or subcontractors to build everything that comes through our lives as well as doing what is necessary to maintain and repair these buildings, roadways, and infrastructure. Highways, sewers, electrical service? They are all dependent upon the savvy tradesfolk and artisans that make up the construction industry. We tip our hat to each and every person that works in the construction industry today.
Not in the least because construction workers, especially those here in Indiana and Illinois, know that they work a dangerous job. They get up, drink their coffee, and drive off to a work site where they know they will face danger and risk.
It’s no exaggeration: there are all sorts of things on a construction site that can seriously injure or even kill a human being. From using a nail gun, to falling off a scaffold, hit by a construction vehicle, slammed by a falling object, electrocuted by a hot wire, or burned in a chemical spill, it seems that the various ways someone working on the job at a construction site can be harmed is almost unlimited.
Construction sites are dangerous places to be for workers as well as visitors and bystanders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people die in the construction industry each year than in any other sector. Construction workers represented 17% of all work-related deaths in 2010 by the CDC’s tally, for example.
Fatal Falls: Just One Example of Dangers in Construction Work
Consider the danger of fatal falls for construction workers. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HALF of all on-the-job fatal falls happen to construction workers. This, even though construction workers are only 6% of the workforce.
That’s 50% versus 6% — a very sobering statistic.
From NIOSH, we know that construction workers in their first month on the job are at the highest risk of a fatal fall (18%), and that 40% of all fatal falls by construction workers happen during the worker’s first six months on the job.
Which means that people just starting out in construction work are at the highest risk of dying in a fall while working on the construction site. And most of these deaths happen to workers who are employed with the smaller outfits: 26% of fatal falls by construction workers on construction sites occur with employers of 12 or less employees.
- Building(roof /floor) 44%
- From one level to another 8%
- Scaffolds 19%
- Ladders 9%
- From roof 80%
- Through roof 20%.
Safety for Indiana and Illinois Construction Workers
There are local, state, and federal laws in place to protect construction workers on the job here. First of all, the federal government has many laws as well as agency rules and regulations in place that are all designed to keep construction workers safe from harm as they go about their work. Some are specific to a certain type of construction. For example, Congress created the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to oversee the safety of construction, maintenance and preservation of the country’s highways, bridges and tunnels.
Congress also passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This is a federal law that makes all U.S. construction employers spend money to keep their workers safe as well as keeping records of all their employees’ work-related injuries and illnesses.
It also created an agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to be a part of the Department of Labor. This agency does things like create and pass rules and regulations designed to protect all workers on the job. OSHA protects all American workers, including those who work on construction sites.
See, e.g., 29 CFR 1926, which sets the federal standards for construction worker safety here per the Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
You may recognize OSHA. It’s an agency that’s well-known for policing construction sites to make sure that workers are safe and that employers are following safety standards on the site.
States have their own policing efforts, too. For instance, there is the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA). This is a “state plan” which operates with its own enforcement, with provisions it adopts.
These agencies not only police safety, but they provide information regarding the safety reputations of various members of the construction industry. For example, a construction manager in Indiana or Illinois that is concerned about a subcontractor can check with the federal OSHA site or with Indiana’s agency to find out that subcontractor’s safety track record with them.
Injured on a Construction Site in Indiana or Illinois
If you or a loved one are seriously injured or killed on a construction site here in Indiana or Illinois, there will be investigations by these federal and state officials to learn what went wrong. They will send their investigators to gather documents and interview witnesses.
However, they will not be working to help the accident victim and their families deal with the construction site accident and its aftermath. Their job is to find out what happened, and if necessary, fine and/or shut down the violator (employer). They will not be helping to do things like pay doctor bills, cover lost wages, make sure that the kids are fed and the mortgage is paid.
For this, state personal injury law comes into play. Both Indiana and Illinois have workers’ compensation laws, personal injury laws, product liability laws, and wrongful death statutes in place to help the accident victim and their loved ones get justice. Claims will have to be made and if necessary, lawsuits filed, pursuant to these laws in order for damages like medical expenses and lost earning capacity to be covered by those responsible for what has happened.
Construction work is very dangerous and the risk involved in working construction should be respected and honored. Construction workers in Indiana and Illinois should be kept safe as they do their jobs; however, all too often profits are put over people and safety is lax or lacking on the job site. Be careful out there!