Construction zones are inherently dangerous. Construction companies generally take steps to reduce the dangers of the zones they set up to complete their projects, such as building fences around incomplete projects and requiring workers to use safety equipment while working, but there is no way to completely eliminate the risks that come with the heavy machinery, toxic materials, and sharp tools in use at a construction site. Sometimes, companies or workers attempt to save money by failing to take all necessary safety precautions. When this happens, the chance of a worker or a passerby being hurt in accidents increases. When an accident occurs because of one or more parties’ failure to take proper safety precautions, the negligent party may be liable for the victim’s damages.
Seeking Compensation in a Construction Accident
Victims of construction site accidents and their families have legal rights which may entitle them to just compensation for their injuries. The law requires that construction companies ensure a reasonably safe site, develop and implement safety programs, inspect each site for safety compliance, coordinate job safety, warn of hazards related to the site and work, and prescribe the necessary protective equipment. In New York all construction workers are entitled to very strong and specific protections which ensure that if safety devices, equipment or procedures are not followed that they are entitled to damages for any injury that they receive provided it is demonstrated that the owner, general contractor or representative of the owner fail to provide the necessary safety devices. In addition owners and contractors are required generally to provide a “safe place to work.” In spite of numerous protective regulations, construction site work remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States today. Construction accidents continue to kill or injure thousands each year, with the majority of injuries and fatalities associated with electrocutions and falls.
Common Bronx and Westchester Construction Accidents
Many different types of accident can occur on a construction site. When a worker is injured, he or she may file a Workers’ Compensation claim to seek reimbursement for his or her medical bills and lost wages due to the injury. In some cases, workers choose to file negligence claims against their employers instead, which is also how a non-employee would seek compensation for injuries stemming from negligence on the part of a construction company or other party at the site. When a third party’s negligence is to blame for a worker’s injury, he or she can file a third party negligence claim with that party’s insurer.
A few examples of construction accidents that can occur include:
- Burns; These can be from contact with electricity, chemicals, flames, or heated objects
- Injuries from being pinned between pieces of equipment
- Slip and fall injuries
- Injuries suffered while operating machinery
Before new buildings can be constructed, old buildings have to be demolished. The demolition process can involve explosives, large trucks, and heavy machinery. A few accidents that can occur at a demolition site include:
- Premature or incorrect detonation of explosives;
- Falls from scaffolding or other raised platforms;
- Impact with falling or projectile equipment or materials; and
- Excessively loud noises that can damage hearing.
Trenches are often part of the construction process. They are used to excavate earth from around a project and provide a secure place to lay wire. A trench can be one of the most dangerous places on a construction site because of the risk of being crushed or buried in its collapse. Trenches can also pose disease risks because bacteria and harmful substances can be found within them. OSHA requires that trenches be inspected by competent personnel daily to ensure that they are safe for workers to enter and use. If hazards are discovered, action must be taken to remove or manage the hazards.
A few ways to make working in trenches safer include:
- Inspecting them after rainstorms;
- Testing them daily for toxic fumes, harmful gasses, and oxygen levels;
- Keeping heavy equipment away from trenches; and
- Knowing where all underground utilities are located and avoiding them when digging and working in trenches.
Always inspect your trenches before each shift. If you are not part of a construction crew, do not enter a trench without explicit permission from a worker. Stay away from trenches’ edges at all times.
Cave In Accidents
One of the most dangerous types of trench accident is a cave-in accident. This can happen in a mine as well. A cave in occurs when a structure collapses because it cannot support itself. This can occur when a tunnel or trench is dug through the unstable ground or if it is not supported properly.
A cave in can kill workers inside the trench or tunnel. In less extreme cases, workers can be severely injured, possibly breaking bones or inhaling toxic fumes.
Construction equipment is heavy. When a piece of equipment falls from the scaffolding, it can injure or kill a victim below. Workers are advised to always wear hardhats and protective eyewear when working in areas where heavy objects can fall and potentially cause an injury. A falling object can hit an unprotected victim’s head, potentially causing him or her to suffer a traumatic brain injury. This type of injury can have numerous complications, such as permanent disability and brain damage.
Cranes are large, potentially dangerous pieces of construction equipment. A crane can overturn, killing or injuring workers inside. It can also be involved in other types of accident, such as:
- Electrocuting workers through contact with an electrical source
- Injuring workers in a collision with another piece of equipment or in a fall into a sinkhole or trench
- Malfunctioning, causing injury to the workers inside through a collision or sudden movement or shutoff
- Falling onto workers, causing severe injuries or death
As you can see from the descriptions of each type of construction accident, similar conditions can cause multiple types of accident. A poorly maintained trench is not only a hazard on its own, it is a hazard to workers driving machinery around a construction site. An overloaded crane can break or fall off balance, potentially creating a falling object accident as well as injuries caused directly by the overturned crane.
Our Advice: Construction Site Accidents
Ten steps to take if you are injured as a result of a construction site accident
- First, remain calm and if possible move away from the hazard or instrumentality which caused or contributed to your injury.
- If practical, warn others of the condition which caused or contributed to your injury to prevent others from being injured.
- Notify your supervisor as well as other persons responsible for the site.
- Do not make statements implying that your actions contributed to the event.
- Note the identity of any person claiming to have witnessed the event or claiming to have previously complained about the hazard or the defect which caused your injury.
- Ensure that an incident report is prepared or that the event is properly documented by persons responsible for the property.
- Make notes of the time of occurrence, a detailed description of the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- If you have a camera available, photograph the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- Ensure that your account or any witness(es) account are included in any incident report or police report.
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Often insurance companies will disclaim responsibility for injuries when they are not properly reported, documented or treated.