Not surprisingly, jobs in the construction industry are among the most dangerous in the U.S. People in construction work at great heights, deal with heavy equipment and power tools, are exposed to toxic substances, operate around high voltage electrical sources and are involved with dangerous demolition projects. In spite of improvements in construction best practices—including training, communication and proper equipment—accidents still happen. Here are some of the most common (and treacherous) construction accidents in Massachusetts.
Electrocution is fatal, but electrical accidents can cause serious, non-fatal injuries as well. These include severe burns and tissue damage, internal organ damage and cardiac arrest. A shock can cause a worker to be thrown violently, causing anything from broken bones to brain damage. According to a study by the Electrical Safety Foundation International, there were 1,640 nonfatal electrical injuries in the U.S. in 2015.
Falls are number one in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “fatal four” list. In Boston, two workers fell 40 feet from temporary scaffolding in March 2018. Both were fortunate to have survived what could have been a tragedy. In fact, 381 of 971 construction accident fatalities in 2017 were the result of falls.
OSHA defines a struck-by accident as, “injuries produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment.” Struck-by accidents can include being struck by any of the following:
- Flying object such as a nail from a nail gun
- Falling object such as a load falling off a truck
- Swinging object such as being hit by a boom when within the swing radius
- Rolling object such as being hit by a moving vehicle
Trenching and excavation accidents
These types of accidents are considered so dangerous that OSHA has announced that trenching and excavation safety was a top priority for 2018. To underscore their concern, just consider this OSHA quote: “An unprotected trench is an early grave, do not enter an unprotected trench.” Cave-ins and collapses are the greatest danger, but other hazards include falls and toxic atmospheres.
Most common OSHA violations
OSHA was formed in 1971 to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses and enforce safety regulations. Since its inception, workplace injuries have been reduced by 50 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have dropped 40 percent. OSHA still plays a vital part in workplace health and safety, and cites these as some of the most common violations:
- Fall protection: Major causes of fall injuries include failure to use personal fall protection equipment, improper training and failure to provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
- Hazard communication procedures: The goal of the Hazard Communication Program is to protect employees from injuries and illnesses associated with toxic and hazardous substances in the workplace. Employers are responsible for identifying hazardous chemicals in the workplace, providing safety data sheets (SDS) and training supervisors and workers in the program.
- Scaffolding safety requirements: OSHA’s “Safety Standards for Scaffolds Use in the Construction Industry” spells out regulations for scaffold design, construction and use, as well as worker and supervisor training. Failure to meet these standards is an OSHA violation.
- Respiratory protection: Respirators are an important protection for workers who may be exposed to harmful smoke, gasses, vapors or sprays, as well as protection in low-oxygen environments. Employers are required to provide and train workers in the proper use of respiratory protection.
- Hazardous energy control: Lockout/Tagout helps ensure that nobody is harmed by the unexpected release of stored energy during maintenance, servicing or work on electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other energized sources. Employers must provide lock and tag equipment, train workers and instruct in proper procedures.
- Ladder safety: In addition to ensuring that workers have and use proper fall protection equipment, employers are responsible for making sure that ladders are properly inspected and that defective or broken ladders are taken out of service.
Learn more about your right to protection as a construction worker
If you have been injured or have questions about construction safety legal matters, please contact the office of Chisholm Law LLC or call us at 978-942-6959 today to speak with our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.
About the Author: Eric Chisholm
J. Eric Chisholm practices in the areas of Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association & a frequent lecturer on the topic of workers’ compensation law at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education seminars.