Houston Construction Accident Attorneys
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Construction has proven to be one of the most dangerous fields to work in, as it is common for serious injuries to result from hazardous working conditions. On a construction site, there are safety practices and equipment malfunctions that could result in a worker's injury or endanger the lives of bystanders. Without proper safety measures to protect workers, negligence could cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries.
The agency responsible for holding employers accountable for safe working
conditions is the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. They
inspect work sites and bring disciplinary action against employers and
contractors who do not ensure the safety of their employees.
However, keep in mind, that OSHA does not represent injured workers—accident attorneys do.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 5 of every job-related fatality was someone who worked in construction; 1 in 10 of every non-fatal workplace injury was attributed to the industry. In 2004, this led to more than 1,000 construction workers becoming victims of fatal accidents. Ultimately, the environments are dangerous by design. No matter whether the worker is building trenches underground or working near a congested freeway, they are placed in dangerous situations on a daily basis. Beyond this, they are required to work with dangerous equipment—from large cranes to hazardous materials. It, however, is important to note that while construction is a known dangerous industry, it doesn't mean that accidents are just to be accepted. Employers have a duty to follow safety regulations to make sure that their employees are protected to the full extent of the law—if they are negligent or should defective equipment be used, the injured have a right to compensation.
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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. Every year, it is often the same four causes—compelling OSHA to often name them together as the “Fatal Four.”
The Fatal Four
- 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 alone, 500+ lives could be saved every year—not even mentioning the number of injuries that could be prevented. The overwhelming majority of deaths by falling occurred due to the failure of structure or equipment, commonly scaffolding. Faulty scaffolding injures 4,500 workers a year—and kills 60 of them.
Common Hazards Faced at Construction Sites
While working onsite, sadly it is common for human error to be the cause of a serious and debilitating injury. Whether it is negligence on the part of a supervisor or the absent-minded mistakes of a co-worker, related issues make this field of work one of the most dangerous.
Examples of Issues That Can Cause Construction Accidents
- Improper site design or inspection
- Improperly stored materials
- Unmarked hazards (ex: unprotected holes or roofing)
- Using old or defective working materials
- Safety code violations
Unmarked hazards could result in falls to a lower level—either a trench, holes in the roofing, or uncovered manholes. OSHA classifies these as “falls through existing holes or structures,” and it causes 82 deaths and thousands of injuries annually. Employers are responsible for clearly marking these hazards. Other times, a worker may sustain injury due to unsafe conditions. This could occur when the correct safety measures are not taken to protect workers against accidents—whether due to faulty equipment manufacturing or an unstable work environment.
The Most Common Accidents & Causes of Injuries at Construction Sites
Construction workers are commonly asked to work on scaffolding, which is a temporary structure. Unfortunately, scaffolds are often erected incorrectly, leaving them shaky and unsteady. Scaffolding accidents 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 who were 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. To counteract the high rate of scaffolding injuries, 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.
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
Falling from a Height
One of the most common causes of injury for construction workers is falling from a height. In 2014, OSHA reported 660 fatalities as a result of falling from a height. Regardless of whether they are working on a roof, scaffolding, or a ladder, construction workers are often asked to conduct their work up high. 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
Ladder & Stairway Accidents
According to statistics released by OSHA, 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 used improperly (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 on inspecting ladders for defects.
- 61% of victims were using a ladder that had not been secured at the top.
- 57% of victims were holding objects while climbing or descending.
- 53% of victims were using 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 a worker slips, trips, and falls. To counteract this danger, they should be kept free of all dangerous objects, debris, and material at all times. Stairways should have at least one handrail as well.
Accidents in Trenches
Work in trenches is extremely dangerous as cave-ins occur all too frequently. According to BLS data, 13 workers died from a trench or excavation collapse in 2014 alone—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 that there is an average of 50+ fatalities every year from accidents of this kind, with 68% of these accidents occurring in companies who have 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
Defective & Dangerous Equipment
One of the most common sources of accidents on construction sites is the equipment used by workers. 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. We 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 when 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 properly 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 properly examined for defects on a regular basis.
- 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.
Harmful Chemicals & Toxic Exposure
Construction workers are often asked to work with chemicals that pose serious health risks, such as irritation, flammability, corrosion, and more. OSHA has a stringent Hazard Communication Standard that spreads the proper information about these dangerous chemicals. When these standards are not followed, workers can be left to work with harmful chemicals unknowingly. This can cause personal injuries such as burns and respiratory problems, and also cause large-scale accidents such as fires and explosions.
OSHA recommends the following to reduce injuries caused by failures in hazard communications:
- Each chemical should have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that is easily accessible.
- 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.
Call Our Houston Construction Site Injury Attorneys at (888) 493-1629!
Even in cases where workers blame themselves for their injuries, it is often the case that employers failed to meet federal safety standards. Employee mistakes should not have to cost them their livelihoods, limbs, or physical health—that is neither just nor legal.
If you or a loved one has suffered a debilitating injury because of a construction accident, it is likely that negligent behavior was the cause. If safety regulations are not being followed, grave consequences may be the result. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, our dedicated team of attorneys has handled countless personal injury claims and has recovered billions of dollars in compensation for our clients. We understand how an injury can restrict a worker's future physically and mentally. We work aggressively on every case to obtain the compensation that our clients deserve.
Give us a call today at (888) 493-1629 and let us get started in the fight for you.