Various Types of Construction Site Accidents. New York state has specific provisions to address the distinctive dangers faced by workers in the construction industry. These workers are subject to dangerous conditions and potentially serious injury on an ongoing basis.
Recently, a report revealed that construction deaths in New York are on the rise. Construction fatalities-often caused by falls-also appear to excessively affect Latino workers. The January 2017 study findings revealed safety violations, including employers who failed to comply with safety laws and allegedly caused construction worker deaths and that non-union construction sites are especially dangerous. The report was released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and is entitled “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.”
When a worker suffers an injury, the worker is usually covered by workers’ compensation; however, workers’ compensation is typically insufficient to cover the potentially serious injuries that occur at construction sites. What’s more, construction sites are often occupied with a number of contractors and sub-contractors at any given time. It is not unusual for one of these third parties to be involved with an injury to a non-employee working for someone else on the site.
Construction workers’ have extremely risky jobs. In fact, in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that there were 774 construction site accident deaths, which was more than 18 percent of all on-the-job fatalities that year. In 2012, there were 775 deaths, representing 19.6 percent for that year. Statistics also revealed that four out of every 100 construction workers is non-fatally injured on the job every year. Building materials, tools, and machinery in the work place surround construction workers, which means that the workers are potentially facing serious hazards at any given time during their workday. Some of the most common construction site accidents may include:
- Falls from high heights or scaffolding: The most common violation of federal regulations is found in this category, such as inadequate safety on scaffolding, which is among the top three most common violations, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Bureau of Labor Statistic indicates these accidents account for 34 percent of all on-the-job construction worker deaths and OSHA indicates that 278 workers fell to their deaths in 2012, which accounted for 36 percent of construction deaths in that year.
- Insufficient communication systems warning construction workers of hazards were the second most common violation discovered by OSHA.
- Electrocutions: This accounts for the third most-common cause of death at construction sites, resulting in 66 deaths-or nine percent-during the time frame studied.
- Slips and falls.
- Falling debris, materials or objects: Some 10 percent of all fatalities at building locations were due to workers being hit by objects; 78 people died in this way during the period studied.
- Becoming caught in between objects, materials.
- Fires and explosions.
- Overexertion, including heat stroke.
- Machinery accidents.
- Vehicular accidents in which construction workers are hit by a passing vehicle or truck.
- Trench collapses.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm with decades of experience representing workers in lawsuits over occupational hazards and other issues. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a construction site accident lawsuit.
Construction Negligence Law, Labor Law
Under ordinary negligence law, an injured worker may sue a third-party contractor for dangerous conditions that allegedly caused the worker’s injury, of which the third-party was in control, and of which the third party knew, or should have known, was dangerous. In such claims, as in other claims alleging negligence, a worker’s alleged comparative negligence is at issue and workers must be reimbursed for any received workers’ compensation.
Under New York’s Labor Law 240, construction workers who perform work that is needed or related to the assembly or repair of a building and who do so at high elevations such as on a scaffold, a ladder, or any other tall structure, are entitled to specific safety devices and provisions. If these devices and provision are not provided and if a worker is injured in a scaffold accident or other so-called “elevation support-related” accident, the worker-in addition to receiving workers’ compensation through the employer-may also recover against a third-party who was alleged responsible for supervising the project and providing safety devices. Supervision includes, for example, a general contractor or sub-contractor who is responsible for safety on a portion of the project or for all of the project and it is proven that this third-party knew or should have known that the alleged safety violations existed. If it is proven that worker was fully responsible for the alleged accident, the supervising party is not responsible and the allegedly injured person would be required to reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation received.
If a construction worker is working on a scaffold that had been set up by the employer and the scaffold falls for no seemingly apparent reason, the worker may recover for resulting injuries. If the construction worker sets up the scaffold improperly and the scaffold gives way and the worker falls and becomes injured, the worker may not be able to recover for their injuries. Minor repair work and routine maintenance does not fall under the erection or repair of a building under Labor Law 240.
Labor Law 241 does provide for strict liability in situations in which a contractor or other party allegedly violates certain safety codes at a worksite which results in injury. In this type of a situation, a worker does not have to prove the defendant was negligent in causing the injury; it is the violation that establishes fault. This particular section is not limited to injuries that result from elevation-related accidents. This section notes that, if a worker recovers under Law 241, by making a third-party claim, the worker must reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits received. For example, a safety code provides that lights must be placed a certain distance apart in a tunnel when workers are conducting excavations. If the lights are placed too far apart and a worker trips and is allegedly injured, the worker may recover by showing the code violation.