One of the Biggest Construction Accident Verdicts in the U.S.
In 2015, Arnold & Itkin represented a site superintendent who lost his leg in a crane accident. Berkel & Company had been hired to drill auger cast pilings, operating a crane owned by Maxim Crane Works. At one point, the auger got stuck during deep foundation drilling. A superintendent told the crane operator to continue drilling to unstick the auger.
After five attempts, he ordered the crane operator to attempt it again.
This is when the crane collapsed.
Our client was standing behind a safety fence 100 feet away when a piece of crane equipment struck him and pinned him to the ground. Another crane lifted the equipment off him, but it was too late—doctors had to amputate his leg above the knee. At trial, our Houston construction accident attorneys argued that both Berkel and Maxim were at fault: Berkel for violating safety practices, and Maxim for not inspecting their crane.
The jury agreed and awarded our client a $44 million verdict for his medical expenses, loss of earning ability, physical impairment and pain, and mental anguish. His verdict included $8.5 million in punitive damages.
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Report Shows Dangers of Construction Work
Business has been booming in Texas, and corporations and citizens are flocking to the state to take advantage of the opportunities. The population growth has meant a boom for the construction industry too. New residential housing and business projects have made the demand for construction workers rise.
Currently, over one million construction workers are working in Texas. While the growth has been good for local economies, it has also increased the number of injuries on construction sites. Construction work is some of the most dangerous work in the nation. Each day construction workers are faced with a number of hazards that could lead to severe injury or death if they are not following proper safety protocols.
A report released by the Workers Defense Project revealed just how dangerous construction work really is. Below are some alarming facts contained within the report:
- 1 in 5 construction workers reported suffering an on-the-job injury.
- Over 60% of construction workers do not receive adequate safety training.
- There is only 1 OSHA investigator for every 103,899 construction workers.
- The Texas construction industry has a higher fatality rate than any other state.
Common Hazards Faced at Houston, TX Construction Sites
Sadly while working onsite, it is common for human error to cause debilitating injuries. Whether a supervisor's negligence or a coworker's absent-minded mistakes, this field of work is one of the most dangerous.
Examples of issues that can cause construction accidents include:
- Improper site design or inspection
- Improperly stored materials
- Unmarked hazards (ex: unprotected holes)
- Using old or defective working materials
- Safety code violations
Unmarked hazards can result in falls to a lower level—either a trench, holes in roofing, or uncovered manholes. OSHA classifies these as "falls through existing holes or structures"; they cause 82 deaths and thousands of injuries annually. Other times, a worker may sustain an injury due to unsafe conditions.
The "Fatal Four" Construction Accidents
Through OSHA's annual research, particularly the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the public has access to the most common construction accidents to cause fatalities. It is often the same four causes every year, compelling OSHA to often name them together as the "Fatal Four." The overwhelming majority of deaths by falling occurred due to the failure of structure or equipment, commonly faulty scaffolding.
The fatal four include the following:
- Falls (39.9%)
- Electrocution (8.5%)
- Struck by Object (8.4%)
- Caught In-Between (1.4%)
What is tragic is that these hazards are preventable through proper safety. OSHA estimates that by eliminating the Fatal Four, more than 500 lives could be saved every year—and countless injuries could be avoided.
Employers could prevent deaths from the Fatal Four through the following precautions:
- Using proper fall prevention equipment when workers are required to be elevated.
- Training workers on basic safety measures, such as avoiding walking under heavy objects.
- Providing workers with safety gear such as hard hats, toe guards, and eye protection.
- Instructing workers to check electrical wiring daily to ensure it has not been damaged.
- Posting signs to warn workers of hazardous areas on the site.
As Houston construction accident lawyers, we are committed to holding contractors and manufacturers accountable for failures that allow construction injuries and fatalities to occur in the first place.
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Construction workers commonly work on scaffolding (a temporary structure). Unfortunately, scaffolds are often erected incorrectly, leaving them unsteady. This leads to scaffolding accidents, which cause 4,500 injuries annually. In some of the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50 fatalities were attributed to scaffolding in one year alone. More than 70% of those injured in a scaffold accident said the incident was due to either planking or support giving way or them slipping or being struck by a falling object.
Other solutions for making scaffolding safer include the following:
- Only erect, move, or dismantle scaffold under a competent person's supervision.
- Properly equip scaffold with guardrails, midrails, and toeboards.
- Immediately repair or replace damaged/weakened scaffold accessories.
- Instruct all employees about the hazards of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
A scaffold must be capable of carrying not only its weight but four times its maximum intended load without settling or moving. It should also be erected on solid footing without unstable objects being used to support it.
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Falling from a Height
One common cause of injury is falling from a height. In 2014, OSHA reported 660 fatalities due to falling from a height. Construction workers often conduct work high, whether they are working on a roof, scaffolding, or ladder. When workers are not provided with adequate fall protection, the results can be disastrous.
Common ways to prevent fall injuries include:
- Stable scaffolding
- Fall arrest systems
- Safety nets
- Secured covers
- Restraint systems
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Ladder & Stairway Accidents
According to OSHA statistics, more than 24,000 injuries and 35 fatalities occur every year because of a fall from a ladder or a stairway on a construction site. Of these, more than 50% require time off from work. Most commonly, ladder accidents occur because the wrong ladder was used for the job, the ladder failed because it was in poor condition, or the ladder was misused—often due to a lack of training.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a study of 1,400 ladder accidents, which found:
- 73% of victims had not been given clear instructions on safe use.
- 66% of victims had not been trained in inspecting ladders for defects.
- 61% of victims used a ladder that had not been secured at the top.
- 57% of victims held objects while climbing or descending.
- 53% of victims used a ladder that had not been secured at the bottom.
- 30% of victims had shoes that were either wet, greasy, or oily.
Stairways can also cause serious accidents when workers slip, trip, and fall. Stairways should be kept free of all dangerous objects, debris, and material at all times and should have at least one handrail as well.
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Accidents in Trenches
According to BLS data, 13 workers died from a trench or excavation collapse in 2014. In general, events where workers were caught under collapsing structures caused a total of 74 deaths that year. The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) researchers found an average of 50+ fatalities every year from accidents of this kind, with 68% of these accidents occurring in companies with less than 50 total workers.
Solutions proposed by OSHA to reduce trenching accidents include:
- Never allowing a worker to enter into an unprotected trench
- Always using a protective system for trenches at least a foot deep
- Using a registered professional engineer to design trenches deeper than 20 feet
- Using protective systems such as sloping, shoring, and shielding
- Providing an exit no more than 25 feet apart in the trench
Working in a trench may pose inherent risks, but these can be minimized or even eliminated with the right practices, equipment, and procedures. As Houston construction accident attorneys, we know how to identify violations of safety standards that cause trench collapses, helping our clients seek and recover the fair compensation they need.
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Defective & Dangerous Equipment
From cranes to forklifts, construction workers often need to use heavy equipment to get the job done. When this equipment is not properly maintained, inspected, or used, accidents can be severe. Our construction accident lawyers in Houston have handled numerous cases where a client's life was altered because an operator was poorly trained. For example, accidents occur when a crane's boom comes into contact with a power line or a crane's swing hits a worker. Similarly, forklifts can also cause injuries, with OSHA reporting that more than 95,000 construction workers suffer an injury in a forklift accident every year.
The following are solutions to help reduce forklift accidents:
- All operators should be adequately trained and certified.
- No one under the age of 18 should be permitted to operate a forklift.
- No modifications should be made to a forklift without written approval from the manufacturer.
- All forklifts should be adequately examined for defects regularly.
- Forklifts should not be driven at speeds greater than 5 mph—slower when congested or slippery.
- Forklifts should be operated safely with no horseplay or stunts.
- Forklifts should be operated with loads elevated high off of the ground.
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Harmful Chemicals & Toxic Exposure
Construction workers are often asked to work with chemicals that pose serious health risks, such as irritation, flammability, and corrosion. OSHA has a stringent Hazard Communication Standard that spreads the correct information about these dangerous chemicals. When these standards are not followed, workers can unknowingly work with harmful chemicals. This can cause injuries such as burns and large-scale accidents.
OSHA recommends the following to reduce injuries caused by failures in hazard communications:
- Each chemical should have an easily accessible Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
- All employees should be trained on how to read and use the MSDS.
- Employees should be trained about the risks of all chemicals being used.
- Spill clean-up kits should be provided wherever chemicals are stored.
- Employees should be trained on the clean-up of spills and provided with clear instructions.
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Accidents in Highway Construction & Maintenance Zones
When roads need to be constructed, repaired, or maintained, "work zones" are set up for construction workers. Although necessary, work zones on streets or the sides of highways pose serious hazards for workers and drivers alike. Many people are struck by cars zooming down a freeway every year. In fact, of all roadside work zone fatalities, 45% result from a pedestrian worker being struck by a vehicle. In 2010, the DOT found 514 vehicle crashes in roadside construction zones, resulting in 576 deaths. That's 1 fatality every 15 hours.
The National Safety Council notes that most work zone fatalities occur on roads with speed limits of 55 miles per hour or more. While nearly all states have laws that greatly penalize drivers for speeding or other traffic violations in work zones, preventable accidents still occur. As a result, OSHA has created guidelines for all work zones with traffic to enhance the safety of employees. Work zones should use traffic controls that can be identified by signs, cones, barriers, or barrels to guide traffic into proper lanes and the workspace.
OSHA says that there are a variety of different work zone protections that can be used to safeguard employees. Some of these barriers include the following:
- Concrete walls
- Crash cushions
At roadside worksites, construction project managers are required to create these designations. The property manager or supervisor may need to ensure traffic controls are in place at other locations.
OSHA Requirements for Flaggers
OSHA-regulated clothing can make a flagger visible for at least 1,000 feet in any direction. To further prevent a collision, all worksites should have signs warning drivers of the flagger up ahead or of a slow zone. The flaggers should use illuminated paddles to direct traffic at night. All flagger stations need to be illuminated. If it is dark outside, there should be flares or chemical lighting as necessary. Workers need to ensure that glare effects are controlled or eliminated to lower the possibility of an accident. Flaggers must also be trained and certified to do their job and abide by the authorized signaling methods while directing traffic out on the road.
When OSHA standards are ignored or outright violated, our Houston construction accident lawyers aren't afraid to stand up for injured workers' rights. Whether your injuries occurred in a roadside construction zone or any other construction site, we have the experience and resources to help.
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About Houston, TX
Houston was ranked the second-best city for construction workers in 2021. Industrial Paint and Protection (IPP) Magazine made this selection based on residential real estate markets, the number of building permits issued, demand for construction professionals, cost of living, and wages. Houston also came in second for the highest number of construction workers in 2021, with a total of 32,540 workers.
Houston is the most populous city in Texas and is known for its culture and diversity, thriving economy, and stable housing market. The Houston housing market even avoided the worst of the 2008 real estate crash. Houston is also one of the largest cities in the United States based on its total area, coming in at 637.4 square miles. Houston attracts businesses and homeowners alike, and this means the construction industry has remained strong through the decades. Some of the biggest commercial construction companies in the area are David E. Harvey Builders, Tellepsen Commercial Construction, Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co, Gamma Construction, and Webber.
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Call Our Houston Construction Site Injury Attorneys at (888) 493-1629!
If you or a loved one has suffered because of a construction accident, negligent behavior was likely the cause. If safety regulations are not being followed, grave consequences may result. At Arnold & Itkin, our Houston construction accident attorneys has handled countless claims and recovered billions of dollars. We understand how an injury can restrict a worker's future. Our Houston personal injury lawyers work to obtain the best results for our clients nationwide, including Baton Rouge, Dallas, New Mexico, and beyond. Call today to learn more.
Contact our Houston construction accident lawyers at (888) 493-1629 and let us get started in the fight for you.