In our last post, we shared the warning given from a new online research database, revealing that almost half of all construction worker deaths are caused by falls and falling accidents on the work site. The construction industry here in Indiana and Illinois, as well as the rest of the country, has long been recognized as being one of the most dangerous for workers and with a very high risk of permanent injury or death.
However, the news that 46% of construction worker fatalities are caused by workers falling on the site and dying from the injuries sustained in that fall means that construction sites are even more high risk than many realized.
The Different Kinds of Construction Fall Dangers
Working construction can mean all sorts of things. There are a wide variety of projects, from single family residential construction to office buildings and high rise urban towers. Construction trades are varied, too. There are experts at roofing as well as welders, electricians, and HVAC professionals.
All kinds of construction workers and trade specialists may face site dangers in a fall because they all have to perform their jobs at elevations that pose the risk of a serious fall injury — or walk across a hazardous work surface.
Falls can involve falls from great heights as well as slip and fall injuries where the construction worker is hurt in a working surface accident. See:
- Construction Falls: Scaffolds and Ladders Can Cause Serious Accidents
- OSHA Targets Construction Workers Risk of Wrongful Death from Falls While Working on the Job
- Construction Worker Accidents: National Stand-Down for Fall Safety
Fall Protection for Construction Workers
Each construction fall accident must be investigated independently because no two are alike. The particular circumstances surrounding the incident will be unique to that event, and the evidence will show how the accident is linked to negligence or reckless disregard by the supervisor, employer, contractor, owner, etc.
Construction falls often result from things like:
- Worker not being given fall protective gear
- Worker provided with faulty fall protective gear
- Worker not being supervised to make sure fall protective gear is being properly used and is indeed protecting the worker
- Worker not being given proper training in fall protection
- Supervisor not being given proper training in fall protection
- Work site not being monitored for fall dangers
- Sides of work site not protected from fall risk (handrails, safety ropes, etc.)
- Scaffolds that are not maintained and have need of repair
- Ladders that are not maintained and have need of repair
- Work site walking surfaces covered with debris
- Work site walking surfaces covered with spills
- Work site walking surfaces hampered with objects (to step over, etc.)
- Work site walking surfaces with exposed electrical wiring or cords.
Legal Duty to Protect Every Construction Worker in Indiana and Illinois
Employers and supervisors on the site must know the standards of worker safety for all the construction workers on the job. There are federal regulations mandating construction site safety protocols. There are also state and local laws that protect the construction workers on the job.
Under state and federal law, owners, employers, general contractors, sub-contractors, and supervisors, among others, have a legal duty to take reasonable precautions to make construction workers safe from falls on the job site. These failures to respect their duty of care for their construction workers is one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) that so many construction workers are dying from falls on the job.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in five worker deaths in 2016 involved construction workers, and 38.7% of those 2016 construction worker deaths were caused by falls. Too many construction workers face death on the job from a fall.
- Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
- Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
- Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
- Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.
So, why are they failing in their duty to keep workers safe on the construction site? Money. Fall protection eats into the project budget. It may be cheaper for them to risk someone being seriously hurt or killed on the work site than it is to take the time and spend the cash to institute and supervise fall protection measures.
Another reason: they tried to institute fall protection measures, but failed. Some owners, contractors, etc. may do a haphazard job of fall protection. Maybe they don’t make sure the workers are maintaining safety protocols on the site like they should. Maybe the safety gear isn’t maintained, or isn’t installed right in the first place.
Construction Worker Injury Claims in Indiana and Illinois
Either way, when a construction worker is permanently injured or killed in fall on a construction site, there may be several defendants who share the blame and the legal liability for the accident and its consequences. Damages can include things like loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses, and more.
Legal claims based upon negligence law and/or workers’ compensation and wrongful death statutes can be filed to seek justice for the victim and their loved ones, of course (read examples here) but the better course for these employers and for-profit companies is to protect their workers from harm and avoid the accident. See, Serious or Fatal Slip and Fall Injuries: The Employer’s Duty of Care.
In Indiana and Illinois, construction workers are in serious danger of being disabled or dying in a fall on the job. There are insufficient safeguards protecting construction workers from serious falls today and people are being hurt or killed, and families are being harmed as well. Be careful out there!