“OSHA” is an abbreviation for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This federal agency is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Its mission is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards. OSHA’s authority comes from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, which covers most private sector employers and their workers. The agency sets and enforces safety standards in the workplace, including construction sites.
What Are OSHA’s Standards for Construction Sites?
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries for workers in the U.S. OSHA has issued a long list of construction industry standards. The purpose of these standards is to help protect construction workers from multiple worksite hazards, such as falls from heights, crush injuries, electrocution, and exposure to toxic substances. Employers are required to comply with these standards to ensure that worksites are safe for workers.
How Does OSHA Enforce Its Construction Site Standards?
OSHA officials conduct inspections on worksites to enforce their standards. The agency also publishes reports on workplace safety. Most states, including New York, collaborate with the federal agency by creating state specific plans that comply with OSHA standards. When OSHA finds serious violations of safety standards on construction sites, it can have significant consequences for employers.
The agency has the authority to cite employers for violations and to require correction of problems. Repercussions of violations can include large fines, which can escalate according to the severity of the violation. Non-complying employers may also be required to enroll in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
Does OSHA Investigate Construction Site Injuries?
Employers have a duty to report serious workplace accidents to OSHA within eight hours. Serious construction accidents that result in fatalities or hospitalizations are given a high priority. OSHA inspectors will investigate promptly, beginning with a history of accidents on the worksite and a review of the employer’s operations. After interviews with the employer, OSHA officials will visit the worksite and document any safety hazards. OSHA may also investigate construction worksites in response to written complaints from workers that their employers are not following safety standards.
How Can OSHA Affect New York Construction Injury Cases?
Most workers injured on the job are covered by workers’ compensation and therefore barred from filing injury lawsuits against their employers. When an OSHA inspection reveals violations of safety standards on a construction site, the agency will send a letter to the employer asking why the unsafe conditions were present and what was the cause of the violations. Consequences for the employer can be significantly impacted by its response to the letter.
If OSHA determines that the employer willfully ignored the hazard, it can give injured workers an avenue to sue for personal injury in civil court. OSHA’s findings of noncompliance and citations for violations can be used as evidence in a personal injury claim.
What Are Your Options for Compensation After Severe Construction Site Injuries?
Depending on the circumstances, injured construction workers may have two legal options for recovering compensation:
- Workers’ compensation: This no-fault insurance provides medical and disability benefits to injured workers. Coverage applies regardless of fault for the accident or any safety standard violations. In most cases, this is the exclusive remedy available.
- Personal injury claim: When workers are injured through the negligence or violations of law of a third party (other than their employer), they may be entitled to pursue a claim for types of compensation that are not available under workers’ comp, such as pain and suffering.
After a serious construction accident, contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP at (212) 986-7353. Our experienced New York construction site injury attorneys can advise you of your options under the law.