Construction sites have the highest occupational fatality rate in the nation’s labour force, not counting work-related deaths caused by occupational diseases. The causes of accidents in construction are very varied, but human error and unsafe work environments unsurprisingly top the list.
What is a construction site accident?
An accident on a construction site is any incident that occurs abruptly and unintentionally while repairing, building, demolishing, cleaning, or renovating a building, and which usually results in personal injury and/or property damage.
The most common construction site accidents include slips, falls from heights (these are the deadliest), burns, explosions, falling objects, electrocutions, getting trapped, heavy machinery-related injuries, scaffolding collapses, being hit by moving objects or vehicles, unprotected exposure to toxic substances, and more.
Main causes of accidents in the construction industry
The causes of accidents in construction work can fall under four major categories:
- Human error. This includes everything from preventable errors at the top management level to mistakes made by the personnel. Human error includes actions, inactions, and other voluntary acts that have contributed to the workplace accident.
- Defective/lack of equipment. Defective equipment is a common hazard on a construction site, but often one of the deadliest. Also, the absence of personal protective equipment due to the employer’s or the worker’s fault has been behind many preventable accidents. Faulty design of equipment may also result in injuries, in which case the equipment manufacturer or designer may be held liable.
- Hazardous environment. Many construction site accidents happen because of hazardous environments such as an oil spot that has led to a slip and fall or bad weather that lowered a machinery operator’s visibility. Some environmental hazards can be prevented like the former case, while others require just a little bit of extra caution to lower the risk of accidents like the latter case.
- A mix of any of the above.
Since construction sites are hazardous to work environments by design, extra safety precautions and protection need to be taken to prevent life-threatening injuries and deaths. Unfortunately, many construction companies skimp on worker safety and push workers to complete tasks as quickly as possible to cut costs even if that means sacrificing protection.
Some of the most common ways construction firms put workers’ life at risk include:
- Absence of protection against falls from heights
- Absence of protection from falling objects
- Blatant violations of OSHA safety rules
- Cheap and unsafe personal protective equipment
- Collapsing scaffolding and trenches
- Lack of critical safety features on power tools
- Lack of noise protection
- Poorly maintained heavy machineries, such as forklifts and cranes
- Unaddressed slip and fall hazards
- Unsafe premises
I was injured on a construction site: What’s next?
After getting the necessary medical attention in the wake of a construction site injury, know that you are eligible for compensation for your injuries and wage loss. Construction site workers can recover compensation for their damages through their employer’s worker’s compensation coverage.
If they are independent contractors, they’ll need to sue the construction company, the equipment manufacturer, and/or a third party if that person or entity contributed to their injuries. For instance, the operator of heavy machinery might have been careless, which caused you an ugly injury.
Worker’s comp has its many benefits like offering compensation for worksite injuries even if your employer was not at fault or if the injuries were caused by your careless behaviour as long as you didn’t violate workplace policies, like working inebriated.
Worker’s comp, however, has its huge limitations as you cannot recover compensation for your pain and suffering. Only a personal injury lawsuit will cover those. What’s more, your employer’s worker’s comp carrier might try to minimize your injuries and losses for their profit.
That’s why victims of construction accidents should not rush to sign an agreement with the insurance company no matter how tempting their initial settlement offer may look. Your injuries might be worth tens of thousands of dollars more, so talk to an experienced personal injury attorney (more details in the link) even before filing a personal injury claim.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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