Dangerous by nature: Pennsylvania construction work

 In Personal Injury, Workers Compensation
Massive building materials. Power tools. Electricity, gas, chemicals and explosives. High temperatures. Soaring heights and underground depths. Heavy industrial vehicles. Wind. Complex engineering. Deadlines. Negligence. Human error. Financial pressures. Fatigue.

These are some of the ingredients in the recipe for disaster that is the construction-site accident. This year the densely populated Northeast U.S. has seen its share of construction mishaps. For example:

  • In September, a 29-year-old construction worker died after being hit by a 2,000 pound concrete barrier while working on a highway project in Bethlehem, Pa.
  • In July, a construction worker lost his left arm when it was caught in a pulley mechanism that was hauling materials to the roof of the federal building in downtown Roanoke, Va.

Both accidents are under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA is the federal agency charged since 1970 with seeing that workers across the country have safe working conditions.

Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, known as the OSH Act, OSHA has enacted federal regulations that set workplace safety standards, which the agency enforces by worksite inspections (usually unannounced), sometimes in response to worker complaints. For the construction industry alone, OSHA has issued hundreds of specific, detailed workplace safety standards.

Most construction employers fall under OSHA jurisdiction, and employer violation of OSHA safety standards can result in citations for civil violations for which significant fines can be assessed. As part of the citation process, OHSA will order employers to fix illegally unsafe conditions. For the most serious violations, especially if worker fatalities have occurred, criminal penalties may also be imposed, including fines and jail time.

Construction Dangers and Commonly Cited Safety Violations

According to OSHA, almost 6.5 million U.S. construction workers report to work every day. Compared to other industries, the construction industry has the worst rate of fatal injuries. The leading causes of construction deaths are:

  • Falls: the top cause, accounting for 264 fatalities of 774 total in 2010
  • Struck-bys: such as by moving freight, materials, vehicles, equipment
  • Caught-in/betweens: such as by trench or excavation cave ins
  • Electrocution: contact with overhead or underground lines; insufficient provision of safe, adequate power sources to worksites

The top five OSHA construction safety standard areas most often violated by employers in 2004:

  • Scaffolding
  • Fall protection
  • Excavation
  • Ladders
  • Head protection

Construction workers literally make our lives possible by providing, repairing and maintaining residential, government and commercial buildings, roads and highways, bridges and more.

If you are a construction worker harmed by a work accident, or the surviving loved one of a construction employee who died on the job or from the effects of a dangerous working condition, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your legal rights and options. A workers’ compensation claim may be appropriate, and in some cases, a personal injury lawsuit.

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