Avoiding Accidents & Lawsuits

One of the most dangerous jobs in the United States is construction work, as evidenced by the fact that thousands of workers are injured or killed each year in construction accidents.

Construction accidents occur when contractors take shortcuts to cut costs or to get a job done on time when weather or supplies cause an unwanted delay.

Another reason construction tragedies happen is when safety engineers are either absent from the work site, are negligent or when safety programs to protect workers are not in place.

A settlement to an injured worker – paid over 30, 40 or more years – is far more costly than short-term cost-cutting measures or any short-term gain obtained by speeding up the clock and overlooking safety requirements.

When injured on the job, a construction worker can sue the employer for work-related injuries with help from a construction injury attorney. Also, a third party, such as an equipment manufacturer, can be shown to be liable for negligence when an injury occurs on the job site.

Even if the worker is injured because of his or her own carelessness, the worker can collect compensation through the Workers Compensation Act, which adds to the long-term costs of contractors.

It is critical to follow existing safety programs, to closely monitor work processes to determine if additional safety measures should be added, and never to ignore safe practices for short-term gain.

Who is Responsible?

The general contractor and all subcontractors are responsible for ensuring the construction site is reasonably safe. It is their obligation to warn of possible hazards on the site, to hire employees who will use caution while working, to coordinate job safety and to check that safety guidelines are being followed.

Manufacturers of construction equipment are responsible for designing and maintaining safe products. Defective or dangerous products may be at fault in a construction accident.

With all of the equipment used on a construction site, the chance for injury is great, but if the proper safety measures are not employed in the manufacture of this equipment, the chance of an injury or a death increases greatly.

The manufacturers of this equipment can be found liable when an accident occurs due to one of their products. Equipment used on a construction site includes graters, winches, trucks, scaffolding, cranes, ladders, scrapers, power tools, derricks, hoists, conveyors, woodworking tools, gas detectors, tractors, bulldozers, forklifts, back hoes, heavy equipment, boilers and pressure vessels.

Taking Steps

There are some definite steps a construction company should take to avoid unwanted lawsuits because of on-the-job injuries.

First of all, be sure you know the difference between a hazard and a risk. A hazard is something that can go wrong. On the other hand, a risk is the chance that something will go wrong.

Knowing the difference between a risk and a hazard is difficult because in construction, risk levels often change. Hazards should be eliminated; risks should be controlled. Begin each workday with a walk-though of the work site. Identify any hazard that can be a danger and correct it immediately.

Not all activity can be handled by power equipment, so make sure your workers are trained in the proper techniques in lifting and moving materials or holding materials in place for a prolonged period.When power equipment is used, make sure operators are trained in the safe operation of forklifts, cranes and similar equipment.

Monitor noise levels at your worksite, and if noise exceeds safe levels, take steps to reduce noise or equip workers with cotton or earplugs to lessen the chance of permanent damage to the ear.

Have a written safety plan which should include such measures as:

  • Keep all machinery in safe working order
  • Develop clear work procedures and post all safety instructions
  • Prevent exposures to hazards and risks instead of relying on personal protective equipment
  • Inspect the ladders and scaffolds each time before use
  • Block off traffic in areas where ladders and scaffolds are used
  • Identify utilities before beginning a project and keep a safe distance from power lines
  • Use proper techniques when lifting heavy objects
  • Always wear high-visibility clothing
  • Make sure all work areas are illuminated
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection
  • Protect trenches and excavations by sloping, shoring, benching or by using trench shield systems
  • Ground or double-insulate portable electric tools
  • Deploy a strong preventative maintenance plan
  • Store combustible materials 10 feet or more from all structures
  • Keep first aid and firefighting equipment within 100 feet of every work site
  • Keep use of internal-combustion, engine-powered equipment away from combustible material
  • Check electrical cords and outlets for damage to avoid potential fires
  • Wear the proper protective equipment such as safety goggles, steel toe boots and hard hats
  • Know how to use heavy machinery before operating it
  • Provide earplugs for employees if working in a high noise environment
  • Modify tools to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and to lower vibration.

As a personal injury attorney, I have handled several construction accident lawsuits, many involving large settlements.

However, I have not handled a single case in which negligence was not involved. That simply means that all the accidents would have been avoided if the contractor involved had an extensive safety plan in place and made sure it was followed on all jobs.

Construction injuries, deaths and lawsuits all can be avoided through proper planning and forethought on the part of your company. Here’s hoping accidents never occur on your work site.

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