One of the greatest challenges that construction firms need to face today is keeping up with the demands of progress, specifically, how to accomplish more within less time. The designs of buildings are becoming bigger, taller and more intricate, requiring workers to render longer work periods often ends in untoward incidences that continuously post threats to worker health and safety.
A Houston personal injury lawyer would probably mention that a regular sight in construction areas is heavy machinery, like cranes, concrete mixers, forklifts, bulldozers, loaders, caterpillars, excavators, crawlers and road rollers. This machinery, undoubtedly, makes construction tasks easier and faster to accomplish; however, due to their huge size, wrong operation or requiring an untrained or careless worker to operate any of them can result to a disabling or even fatal injury.
Due to risks of accidents and injuries that construction workers (as well as all other types of employees) are exposed to every day, the US Congress passed into law (in 1970) the Occupational Safety and Health Act (or OSH Act). The Act aims to: ensure all working men and women of safe and healthful working conditions; assist and encourage the States in their efforts in ensuring safe and healthful working conditions; provide for information, education, research and training in the area of occupational safety and health; and, authorize enforcement of the standards developed under the Act. Enforcement of these standards has been delegated by OSH Act to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which was created in 1971.
Despite OSHA’s untiring efforts in enforcing health and safety standards in the workplace, however, the US Department of Labor continues to receive reports of injuries and, sometimes, deaths due to accidents. Based on results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, in 2013, fatal work-related accidents totaled to 4,585; in 2014 the number of deaths went up 2%, registering 4,679.
Fatal accidents in construction sites include workers being struck and killed by a forklift or other heavy machineries, being struck by falling objects, electrocution, and falls, which frequently occur while workers are on ladders or scaffoldings.
Two standards enforced by Federal OSHA requires employers to provide their workers with personal equipment (such as helmet or hard-hat, eye protection, special goggles for welders, gauntlets for iron workers, hearing protection, and hard-toed shoes) designed to provide them with the needed protection against certain hazards and to make sure that workers, especially those tasked to operate and use heavy equipment or machineries, have been effectively trained. In the event of an accident resulting to injury or death, a January 1, 2015, OSHA Standard mandates (OSHA covered) employers to report the incident to OSHA within eight hours of learning of the event.
Work-related accidents resulting to injuries or death entitle workers or their families (in case of worker’s death) to file a claim with their state’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance office. Financial benefits, however, are often too small or delayed, that is if the application for claim is not rejected. Besides these, the Worker’s Comp also restricts injured workers from further pursuing legal action against their employer.
Under certain circumstances, however, this Worker’s Comp’s provision may be ruled against by a court, especially in cases where the injury is too severe or is fatal. Knowing more about injured workers’ rights may be in the best interest of the worker at this point.