Job sites can be a dangerous place for workers, especially if safety rules put in place to protect employees’ well-being are not adhered to. However, some accidents are more common than others, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has dubbed the four accidents most common for worksite deaths the “fatal four.”
OSHA’s fatal four causes of construction worker deaths include the following:
- Falls – On-the-job fall hazards include unprotected wall openings, sides, floor holes, improper construction of scaffolds, and misuse of portable ladders. When workers are exposed to a fall hazard six feet or more above a lower level, OSHA mandates the use of guardrails, a safety net, or personal fall arrest systems. In addition, all floor-hole covers must be able to support twice the weight of employees, materials, and equipment. Floor holes must be covered or guarded during new construction as soon as they are created.
- Struck-by-objects – Struck-by-objects incidents occur due to vehicle/equipment accidents, falling materials, flying objects, and falling bricks during masonry projects.
- Electrocution – These accidents injure or kill employees when they come into contact with power lines, when there is lack of ground-fault protection, when a path to ground is missing, when extension cords are used improperly, and when equipment is not used in a safe, prescribed manner.
- Caught-in or -between accidents – Accidents of this nature occur when workers are injured or killed as a result of being crushed between objects. These injuries can occur during trenching when there are cave-ins. They may also occur when workers become compressed between shifting objects, such as a loading dock wall and a semi-trailer.
Other Types of Industrial Workplace Accidents
There are many industrial jobs other than construction that offer additional risks, such as:
- Refinery: Oil and gas refineries are known for massive explosions that cause fatalities. They often occur due to mismanagement of staff and toxic materials, along with other negligent behaviors.
- Mining: Miners endure extremely difficult work in dangerous environments. They face the risk of explosion, exposure to toxic chemicals and gases, flooding, and, most dangerous of all, mine collapse.
- Chemical plant: Unlike other industrial injuries, the illnesses associated with chemical work are not readily apparent. They usually take time to develop, and symptoms may not be discovered until years down the line.
What Do I Do If I See OSHA Violations?
Due to the inherent dangers in the construction industry, the Occupational and Safety Health Act was passed in 1970. The act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce labor, health, and safety laws. But OSHA has not succeeded in preventing some big construction companies from putting their profits ahead of workers’ safety. Employers remove hazards when OSHA inspectors arrive, then quickly return things to the way they were after the inspection. However, you can do something about this.
There are a few different steps you can take if you see OSHA violations, depending on the nature of the violation and who is involved. If you see coworkers not following OSHA standards, you should report the violation to a supervisor. Be sure to note exactly who was involved and the ways in which they were being unsafe.
If your supervisor or company owner are party to OSHA violations, reporting it to them might not result in any meaningful action. In New York, public state employees can report issues to the New York Department of Labor, Division of Safety and Health, Public Employees Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau. If you are not a state employee, you can report OSHA violations to the OSHA office in your area.
NY Employer Responsibilities
To provide coverage for workers who are injured on the job, employers are required to keep workers’ compensation insurance coverage. A notice of such coverage must be posted in a clear and apparent place. Upon request, your employer must grant access to all records, books, and payrolls. Your employer can be fined for not keeping accurate records of accidents, employee classification, etc.
Your employer may not discriminate against an applicant or employee simply because he or she has claimed workers’ compensation in the past. Once you are injured, your employer is required to report your wages or other compensation, as well as changes to your work status related to your injuries.
The team at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, is dedicated to helping anyone who is suffering from on-the-job injuries. We want to fight to make sure the right parties are held accountable for your injuries, and that you get the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured at a construction site, don’t delay. Call us at (212) 986-7353 for a free consultation.