Some of the most dangerous working conditions of any industry are in construction. Building site workers deal with danger every day, whether they are working on a single-room remodeling project for a homeowner or a large commercial development.
According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 20.3% of 3,929 worker fatalities in private industry in 2013 were in construction. The main causes of death were falls, getting hit by an object, electrocution, and getting caught in machines or between things. Other dangerous activities involve scaffolding, excavations, ladders, trench collapse, head protection, and hazard communication.
Under the OSHA regulations, employers have a number of obligations, including the obligation to offer a workplace free from hazards, establish a comprehensive hazard communication program, and ensure that employees have safe tools and equipment. OSHA regulations include a number of specific rules for different types of construction work. These include requirements that workers wear appropriate helmets and use safety equipment. For example, under the OSHA regulations, safety glasses or face shields should be worn whenever the work could cause foreign objects to get into the eyes. Activities where this could happen include welding, grinding, and working with concrete.
Some states also have specific safety laws that apply to the construction industry. Any construction company employee can ask an OSHA area director to inspect his or her workplace if he or she believes the workplace has hazardous conditions or violations of OSHA standards. No discrimination or retaliation by an employer is permitted in response to an employee's OSHA complaint.
Liability for Construction Accidents
If you are hurt in a construction accident, your ability to recover is likely to turn on issues including liability, indemnity, and whether pertinent safety regulations were followed. On larger projects, more than one party may bear some responsibility, including the owner or developer of the property, design and engineering professionals, contractors, subcontractors, and equipment and material suppliers.
Often, the general contractor enters into subcontracts with subcontractors and equipment and material suppliers, and each subcontract spells out whether the subcontractor has safety responsibilities and whether the subcontractor owes an obligation to indemnify the contractor or developer for any liability arising out of construction accidents. However, the general contractor is typically responsible for overall safety on a work site.
When figuring out who is responsible for a construction accident that hurts an employee or a bystander, two crucial issues are likely to be the degree of control over the premises where the accident happened and the status of the injured person on the project. In many cases, an employee of a subcontractor or contractor will be able to recover certain benefits through the employer's workers' compensation policy. Whether he or she will be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit for damages, such as pain and suffering, against other responsible parties varies from state to state.
In some states, the doctrine of negligence per se applies to violations of OSHA regulations. In those states, once a plaintiff establishes that there was a violation of OSHA regulations and the violation caused an injury, the injured person will not have to establish anything further to prove that the party that violated the regulation was negligent. Violation of any safety rules put forward by the property owner or general contractor may also be a basis for liability.