Construction Injury Law: The “Fatal Four” Workplace Hazards
There are a number of ways for even the most safety-conscious construction workers to suffer serious injuries on the job.
By nature, construction sites are dangerous places to work. While workplace accidents aren’t inevitable, they are unfortunately common.
Many industry experts including OSHA refer to the “Big Four” construction hazards. They are falls, electrocution, caught-in, and stuck-by. Most training materials seen on construction sites cover the four hazards, and the methods for recognizing and preventing injuries stemming from the “Big Four”
1 Fall Injuries
Falls are some of the most serious injuries construction workers can attain on the job. Slipping in a puddle alone could yield serious injuries. Slipping in a puddle from a high balcony could be tragic.
Workers put their well-being at risk while trusting that safety at their workplace is a top priority. When negligence occurs by an employer, co-worker, contractor or subcontractor, a sudden fall can occur, resulting in injuries that not only end careers, but also lives.
2 Electrocution Injuries
Electrocution is caused by any type of electric shock due to exposure to high voltage electricity. Small currents (70 mA – 700 mA) may cause fibrillation in the heart, which can be reversed with a defibrillator. Large currents (> 1 A) may cause permanent damage via burns, and cellular damage.
In a construction zone or other workplace, electrocution can occur when tools or machinery are defective. They can also occur due to human error. For example, a ladder may touch an exposed electrical current at the construction site, leaving disastrous results.
Electrocutions can cause nerve and brain damage, burns, renal failure, cardiac arrhythmia, permanent heart damage, and death. If someone is electrocuted on the job or in the home, it is important to seek treatment immediately.
3 Caught-In Injuries
Caught-in or crush injuries can happen in any industry, but are particularly common in manufacturing, production, and construction fields. There are numerous causes of caught-in injuries including:
- Being pinned between two objects
- Limbs being caught inside machinery
- Being run over by machinery or equipment
- Defects in machinery
When a part of your body is crushed between objects, muscle cell death begins almost instantaneously. When stuck in a pinch point, vessels are compressed, cutting off blood flow and muscles to the tissue.
Crush victims could sustain injuries such as compartment syndrome, severing of limbs, the need for amputation of limbs, broken bones, organ damage, and death. The extent of the injury often depends on which part of the body was involved in the incident. While most injuries involve fingers or limbs, an entire person could be trapped during a crush or caught-in injury.
4 Struck-By Injuries
“Struck-by” injuries are caused by any object that an employee can be struck by. This could mean objects falling off of beams, flying across construction zones, swinging/slipping objects, or moving materials on ground level. If an employee has the potential to be struck by an object, it is a hazard.
Struck-by injuries can have varying degrees of treatment. Approximately 10% of all occupational deaths are from struck-by accidents. In 2007, there were 504 “struck-by” workplace deaths. 311 of those fatalities were construction workers.
Your Legal Options
Most of the time, worksite accidents and injuries must be handled through the state’s workers’ compensation system. While you cannot go to court for a worker’s compensation case, it does help to have an attorney by your side to file the claim. Your workers compensation attorney can look into the best course of action in navigating the system.