Workers who suffer serious or fatal injuries on construction sites receive the focus of attention in lawsuits and from the public. But other workers who witnessed these tragic and often horrible events often receive serious injuries in addition to playing an important role in presenting evidence in construction accident lawsuits.
Stress injuries at construction sites
There were 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry in this country in 2018, according to the US Occupational and Safety Health Administration. One in five of these deaths, 1,008, took place in the construction industry. This industry also has one of the highest rates of worker suicide caused by job stress.
Witnesses become involved in actions that are harmful to them. A construction supervisor, for example, is asked to stand by fatal accident victim’s body for hours during the preliminary investigation. Or, a construction manager notifies family members of the worker’s death in an accident. Co-workers may suffer harm by returning to work after witnessing an accident when they are still deal with fresh and traumatic memories.
An executive vice-president of a Dallas risk management firm argued that, in addition to victims and their families, accident witnesses need attention and aid. This executive said that amazingly little assistance is given to friends and co-workers of construction accident victims.
Workers who were involved in the victim’s accident may also suffer guilt. In one case, an equipment operator who was at a fatal accident site committed suicide three months later.
Workers are beginning to seek compensation form their workers mental suffering after witnessing a workplace accident. In a Florida case, a worker filed an action for emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries based on claims that he witnessed two workers fall to their death during construction of a resort hotel in Orlando.
The plaintiff in that case is seeking $15,000 in damages from the hotel owner and chain, contractors and developers for negligence and failure to have a safe workplace. In that accident, two workers on a scaffolding were killed after falling 80 feet.
Some states also allow workers’ compensation claims for these types of emotional or psychological injuries. Generally, workers must show that he suffered shock or fright from a traumatic and unanticipated event.
In addition to maintaining a safe workplace and taking steps to eliminate physical hazards, construction firms should have plans that includes attention to workers who witness accidents. It should include resources for assisting these workers and community mental health and suicide prevention organizations.
Companies also need to train to managers and supervisors to pay attention to workers who are undergoing post-traumatic stress. All workers should be instructed to look for signs of stress such as workers who begin to arrive late to work or begin to keep to themselves.
Workers who suffer in a construction accident or through witnessing these accidents may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help gather evidence on fault and damages and seek compensation in court.