The construction industry is one of the most physically demanding and hazardous fields. This fact will likely come as no surprise to most people. Yet many might be alarmed to learn the reality of just how dangerous construction sites can be and the prevalence of work-related injuries and deaths.
These can range from broken bones to back injuries to hearing or visual impairment. While safety guidelines are in place to help prevent accidents, working in construction comes with significant risks, even for those employees who follow safety protocols to a tee.
Working on sites surrounded by complex machinery and tools, large construction vehicles, and various sharp, heavy, or unwieldy objects mean that injuries will likely happen, regardless of how closely crews follow safety protocols. A construction accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options if you or a loved one have been injured in a construction accident.
They can also help you hold negligent parties accountable and recover the compensation you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages caused by the accident.
The statistics below help illustrate the dangers that construction workers face when they clock into work every day.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 150,000 injuries occur annually on construction sites.
- Construction workers have a 75 percent likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury over a 45-year career.
- 60 percent of injuries on construction sites occur during a worker’s first year of employment.
- Construction workers face a one-in-200 chance of being fatally injured over a 45-year career.
- The average cost of a fatal or nonfatal injury in construction is $27,000.
- For fatal injuries in workers under 18, the construction industry ranks second in the United States.
- Construction workers account for roughly 15 percent of reported lead poisoning in the United States.
- Fatal and nonfatal injuries in the construction industry cost $13 billion annually.
If you work in construction, you or a fellow employee have likely suffered an injury on the job due to the inherently hazardous nature of the field. Below are some of the most common causes of construction accidents in the United States.
When it comes to construction accidents, falls account for the majority of work-related injuries. Figures illustrate how the prevalence of height exposure subjects workers to life-threatening scenarios.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.2 percent of construction laborers have regular exposure to heights. Workers are at heights when their center of gravity is more than five feet from the ground, and they have no protective walls, railings, or barriers to protect them. This means that employees subjected to high-rise or roofing work are at the greatest risk.
Falls are also the number one cause of fatalities on construction sites, representing about 38 percent of all work-related deaths. In a recent year, the construction industry accounted for 46.1 percent of all fatal falls, slips, and trips. But even when falls don’t kill, the injuries are varied and often costly. Concussions, broken bones, and dislocated joints caused by falls are commonplace, all severe injuries that can rack up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Impact accidents, sometimes called “struck by” accidents, also account for many construction injuries. Impact accidents represent the leading cause of nonfatal construction site injuries and the second leading cause of death among construction workers.
These types of accidents occur when a worker is struck by an object or objects in motion, whether flying debris, swinging structures, or falling materials, tools, or equipment. Injuries resulting from a worker becoming caught under, against, or in between objects also fall under this category. Monetary costs related to struck-by and caught-between accidents can be massive. In 2016, impact injuries and fatalities cost over $1.7 billion.
When construction equipment isn’t falling onto, driving over, or colliding with workers, it’s sometimes causing harm in other ways. The safety risks associated with construction tools are likely familiar to anyone who has handled such equipment, even those who don’t work in professional construction. Drills, saws, sanders, and welding torches are some of the most common offenders and any other sharp or hazardous objects. Even smaller objects like nails, screws, and broken glass can lead to serious injury, infection, or disease on a construction site.
Additionally, mechanized equipment is commonplace in the construction industry, and its presence places workers at an even greater risk of experiencing a machinery-related accident. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 60 percent of construction laborers work near moving mechanical parts. This makes them much more likely to fall victim to various injuries, including cuts, lacerations, punctures, and even losing a limb or other body part.
Another significant hazard that places construction workers at a devastating risk of injury and death is the prevalence of electrocution on work sites. According to the CDC, “construction workers are approximately four times more likely to suffer electrocution than workers in all other industries combined.” A report revealed 61 percent of all workplace electrocutions occurred on a construction site.
Electrocutions can be particularly catastrophic because they often lead to injuries beyond those caused by the electric shock. For example, if a worker suffers an electrical accident, the shock may cause him or her to fall, seize up, or fly backward, causing further injury.
Complex and expensive medical problems result from nonfatal electrocutions, particularly for those classed as high-voltage (above 1,000 volts). Tissue destruction, burns, shock, nerve damage, and other serious complications brought on by electrocution often require extensive medical treatments, surgeries, and doctor visits.
Sensory impairment occurs when the use of one’s sense of hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch becomes damaged or destroyed. Injuries that damage one or more of the senses are particularly common on construction sites and can occur quickly or over time. While we think of accidents as fast-paced, in-the-moment events that lead to instantaneous injury, some accidents take shape more slowly, as in long-term exposure to noise.
Hearing loss is the most common type of sensory impairment on construction sites. This is due to the high-decibel environment created by loud tools, machines, and construction vehicles often present on work sites. According to the CDC, 51 percent of construction workers wre exposured to hazardous noise levels, 25 percent of whom have a material hearing impairment. Furthermore, 14 percent of all construction workers experience hearing difficulty.
Though hearing loss is the most common type of sensory injury among construction workers, many also experience other sensory issues. Contact with toxic chemicals and sharp objects has led to visual impairment, while nerve-related injuries have left others with a damaged sense of touch. Loss of smell and taste are less common in construction, though not unheard of in cases of brain damage resulting from blunt-force trauma and concussion. Sensory injuries can be both painful and emotionally devastating.
Heavy lifting accidents
Accidents and injuries resulting from manually lifting heavy loads are some of the most common among construction workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cited, “On average, construction laborers are required to lift or carry 58.8 pounds, compared to the average for all occupations of 26.3 pounds.” These demands translate to increased muscle tension, often leading to pinched nerves, hernias, or pulled or torn muscles.
Tendon and ligament damage can also be brought on by lifting repeated or excessively heavy loads. Heavy lifting can cause slipped discs, broken backbones, and even spinal cord injuries in more severe cases.
If this wasn’t enough, toe and foot fractures are also a common result of accidentally dropping objects while lifting them. These types of accidents can lead to some of the most disabling, chronic conditions experienced by workers in the construction field, sometimes requiring a lifetime of medical care and prescription drugs.
Repetitive motion injuries
Repetitive motion injuries, also known as cumulative trauma injuries, are another type of injury common in the construction industry. Many laborers in construction are required to perform the same task over and over, spanning long periods.
This repetitive motion can place significant strain on muscles, skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. What might start as only minor aches and pains may develop into chronic repetitive stress injuries if workers do not have enough time to recover between shifts.
Common cumulative trauma conditions include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sprains, shoulder and back strains, bursitis, and disc herniations. Like some categories listed above, these injuries can have long-lasting medical implications.
Burns and heat stress
According to an article published in Occupational Health & Safety, “Construction workers and those working in other labor trades are at an increased risk of receiving burn injuries while on the job because of the machinery and equipment required to perform their daily tasks.” The report also listed some of the most common causes of these accidents, including open flames and fires, gas line explosions, chemical explosions, welding accidents, and exposure to hot liquids, equipment, and surfaces.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that over 5,000 workers are hospitalized yearly for burn injuries caused by construction accidents. Burns can be painful and devastating, sometimes leaving victims permanently scarred. Since most construction sites are outdoors, heat stress and heat stroke are other known hazards.
Construction is an underappreciated profession
Construction work is some of the most dangerous work a human being can do, but for society to function, someone must perform this demanding labor. Those who choose to put their health, safety, and sometimes their lives on the line to build America deserve utmost consideration and respect.
This includes acknowledging that no matter how careful or rule-abiding a worker may be, construction is a line of work that automatically comes with substantial risk. If a worker suffers an injury on the job, that does not mean it was his or her fault.
What to do after an accident
- Get medical help right away. If you have suffered an injury on a construction site, the most important thing to do is to seek medical attention. Depending on the injury, a worker might recover fully with time if he or she receives immediate treatment. However, injuries that are left untreated can develop into conditions that are much more serious.
- Report the accident to your manager. After you’ve received medical attention, the next vital step you should take is to report the accident. This is to ensure that a record has been created about your case promptly, supporting your timeline of events. When filing a report, include all relevant details, but avoid including any extraneous information.
- Gather evidence and documentation. Once the incident is reported, begin collecting evidence about your case. This includes saving copies of your medical records, taking photos of your injuries, gathering witness accounts, and documenting relevant conditions at the accident site, such as photos or videos. These pieces of evidence can be used to support your injury claims.
- Call a lawyer. Once you have followed the steps above, it’s important to call a lawyer to request a case review (Also, avoid talking to insurers at this stage.) Many employees settle for workers’ compensation benefits, unaware they may be entitled to much more.
- Follow the doctor’s orders. Do not deviate from the treatment plan issued by your doctor. Doing so can jeopardize your claim for compensation. Complete all prescription medications, go to physical therapy, and attend all follow-up appointments.
- Avoid posting on social media. Try to avoid posting on social media about your accident and injuries. An opposing attorney or insurance adjuster can use your social media posts against you to have the claim dismissed or the amount of compensation reduced. This is especially important if you claim to have injured your leg but post pictures of yourself riding a bike or going running not long after the accident.
Talk to a construction accident attorney today
If you’ve suffered an injury in a work-related accident, immediately talk to an experienced construction accident attorney. An attorney will investigate the accident, collect evidence, talk to witnesses, and help build a claim on your behalf for compensation.
You should not pay for medical expenses out of your pocket when someone else’s negligence caused your injuries. Talk to a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio today about your injuries.