Overcoming a serious injury can be both physically and emotionally draining. Doing so can be all the more difficult when you know that injury was avoidable and that if proper safety precautions had been taken, the accident could have been prevented. Those who have been working in the construction industry for several years are well aware of the danger associated with pressurized gas cylinders. Think of compressed gas as a potentially deadly weapon because that's just what it is. Cylinders containing compressed gas must be treated with special safety precautions. Some of the most serious violations cited by the Office of Compliance (OOC) result from improper handling of pressurized cylinders.
At the law firm of Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, we understand that nothing can undo the harm done once injuries are suffered. We are dedicated to making sure the voice of the injured and the voices of his or her family are heard. We are experienced construction accident lawyers dedicated to helping victims receive compensation for medical care, prescription medications, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Please call (212) 986-7353 for a free initial consultation.
Section 18 of the Occupational and Health Act of 1970, encourages states to develop their own health and job safety programs. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must approve and monitor these job safety plans. Today 22 states and jurisdictions operate their own plans including the state of New York.
State plans are required to establish health and job safety standards "at least as effective" as federal standards. Over two million local government and state workers are included in the New York State Plan for Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) which operates under the authority of Section 27 (a) of the New York Labor Law.
Federal OSHA continues its jurisdiction over all private sector workplaces as well as shipyards, military facilities, federal agencies, and the U.S. Postal Service. All forms of compressed gas are considered hazardous materials by OSHA, meaning job sites must follow strict rules and regulations when handling them. The agency outlines both general requirements for compressed gasses, which are described under 1910.101, and specific requirements for individual gasses, including:
- Acetylene, 1910.102
- Hydrogen, 1910.103
- Oxygen, 1910.104
- Nitrous oxide, 1910.105
In addition to these regulations, construction companies must also abide by rules for transporting compressed gasses in commercial vehicles, proper safety guidelines during welding or cutting operations, and emergency response plans for hazardous waste. These rules outline everything from how to secure caps on compressed gas containers, how to properly store them, how to inspect a container, and how containers should be hoisted. Failure to abide by these rules can lead catastrophic accidents and serious safety violations.
Because of how dangerous and volatile compressed gas can be, construction site supervisors and employees must take extra care when handling their containers. Using welding equipment near them, dropping them, or even improperly storing them can result in a dangerous accident, sometimes even involving an explosion. OSHA’s guidelines help minimize these dangers; however, not all construction companies follow them to the letter, and if they cut corners, their workers and nearby pedestrians can be injured.
Safety violations that can lead to a compressed gas accident include:
- Failing to secure a gas container upright to avoid it falling over or becoming damaged
- Allowing hot equipment, electrical wires, or fires to come in contact with a container
- Touching frozen containers with warm equipment, which can cause the metal to expand and crack
- Failing to inspect containers for cracks or leaks
- Failing to provide protective gear to workers, such as gloves, goggles, and masks
- A lack of fire extinguishers on a job site
- Not storing containers in cool, dry, and well-ventilated locations
- Failing to separate dangerous materials from each other
- Improperly handling or moving gas containers
Almost all gas containers contain dangerous chemicals that are designed for specific purposes on a job site. However, when a worker is exposed to these chemicals, often due to a safety violation, they can suffer serious injuries.
Gas accidents are extremely dangerous, often involving multiple injured parties and even fatalities. If a worker or supervisor violated an OSHA guideline while handling a gas container, it can lead to:
Because of how catastrophic these accidents often are, workers and even nearby pedestrians can suffer a wide variety of injuries. Even a simple fall caused by an exploding gas container can lead to a traumatic brain injury and costly medical bills.
The most common injuries that can be the result of compressed gas accidents include the following:
- Burns associated with explosion and fire - gasses can be ignited by a flame, a hot object or even by static electricity.
- Asphyxiation - gasses are odorless and colorless and can escape cylinders undetected until it is too late.
- Chemical burns - corrosive gases cause skin tissue to be rapidly destroyed.
- Chemical poisoning - even brief exposure to toxic gas can result in serious injury, and the symptoms might not appear immediately.
- High-pressure injuries - injuries caused by the intense pressure inside compressed gas cylinders can propel the cylinder when such pressure is suddenly released.
- Injuries suffered because of improper handling of containers filled with compressed gas
NY employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance for employees and to post notice of this coverage in the work place. Unfortunately, some companies and insurance carriers attempt to disprove injured workers' claims or to lower the amount they will pay for covered medical costs, lost wages, and disability. But compressed gas accidents are almost never minor, and the injuries that victims suffer can last for years to come. If a negligent employee or supervisor at a construction site allowed another worker to be injured in an explosion or due to toxic exposure, workers’ compensation should provide significant compensation to the worker and their family, if the accident is fatal. While insurance companies may try to minimize the amount of compensation provided to workers, a skilled New York on the job accident attorney can hold them to their policies. We can review your claim to ensure it is properly evaluated by the insurance company and, if they deny it, advocate for you in a hearing.
If you or someone you love has been hurt on the job when a compressed cylinder was mishandled or when safety precautions were not taken, the New York construction site accident attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP know how best to fight the tactics of insurance companies who seek to deny claims or offer lower settlements than your loved one who survived the accident deserves. Call us at (212) 986-7353 for a no-cost consultation to discuss your legal rights.