Every year, falls cause major injuries to construction workers in New York. In fact, they often result in fatalities. Even when the worker survives, there are many tough challenges he or she is faced with, such as costly medical bills, an uphill recovery, and the loss of income from missed work. Sometimes, you could even be left with a permanent disability like paralysis - unable to work for the rest of your life.
The most common construction-related falls occur when a worker falls off a scaffold, falls off a ladder, slips and falls, or falls after being hit by another falling object. Whatever the cause, the end result can be devastating. The worker could suffer broken bones, catastrophic injuries, or paralysis. He or she could suffer brain injuries or be killed outright.
Falling accidents on construction sites are largely preventable, and The Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have stringent rules the construction industry is supposed to follow. The following hazards cause the most fall-related injuries:
- Unprotected sides, wall openings, and floor holes: These are found almost in any construction site, but employers must use appropriate guardrail, safety net, and fall arrest systems, especially when workers are doing their jobs at a height of 6 feet or more. It's common for construction companies to cut corners, and workers and their families end up paying the price after a fall accident.
- Improper scaffold construction: All scaffolds must be constructed according to manufacturer’s instructions. Installing appropriate guardrails and fall arrest systems will go a long way to protect workers.
- Protruding steel rebar: These steel bars, which are a common sight in any work site, should be bent over or topped with caps so a worker cannot be impaled by falling on them.
- Improper use of portable ladders: The risk of falling off portable ladders increases if ladders are not positioned safely, are old and defective, or if they are placed on an uneven surface.
Although all construction workers are at risk for fall injuries, roofers are in particular danger. In fact, roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country due to the high risk of fall accidents, which are more likely to be catastrophic or fatal for a roofer. Some particular concerns for roofers include:
- Roof holes: Roofers are up on a roof for a reason: either to build it or repair it. In either case, there may be holes on the roof. These holes present serious risks to roofers who might not see them and fall through onto a lower level of a building. Holes must be located, communicated, and marked off for workers.
- Roof stability: The roof itself may also be unstable or weak. The foreman or roofing company should assess the condition of the overall structure and act accordingly to keep workers safe while on the job. Roofers must be more careful on surfaces at a steeper incline.
- Trip hazards: Tools and building materials placed on a roof present serious trip hazards for anyone working up on it. Roofing companies and crews should set a system in place for laying down tools and materials, and roofers need to be aware of where objects are and walk carefully. Large equipment and heavy materials can also weaken the stability of a roof, so roofing supervisors should consider how much load they are placing on it while working.
- Poor weather: Rain, snow, and other slippery conditions can make a hazardous roof even more treacherous. Whenever roofers do their jobs in bad weather, they need to be extra careful to remain safe. Even the most experienced roofer can lose his or her footing on a patch of ice, which is why personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are necessary, and should be provided by the company.
- Ladder security: Ladders need to be properly placed and secured so that roofers can safely go up and down to and from the roof. Everyone on a worksite should be trained how to use a ladder and watch for ladders placed incorrectly or becoming unstable. Site supervisors and employers must ensure ladders are in good condition and replace them as needed to keep their roofers safe.
- Edge awareness: Losing focus or forgetting the roof edge’s location can result in a tragic accident, unless the worker has on his required PFAS.
The vast majority of catastrophic and fatal accidents to roofers can be prevented with safety equipment. This includes body harnesses, rope systems to catch them if they fall, and straps for tools and materials to keep them from falling on other workers below. Roofers need to be trained in how to use this equipment and provided with it by their employers to ensure they remain as safe as possible.
Large cranes are not unusual at construction sites in New York. While they are essential to a great deal of construction throughout the city, they also present specific dangers to construction workers and others in the area. Falls involving cranes often happen in one of three ways:
- Fall from a crane: Working on a crane itself poses the very real danger of a fall from heights. It is essential for workers to always wear proper fall-restraint gear while on a crane, and for anyone else in the area to know who is working on it. If another worker moves a crane while someone is working on it, the risk of a fall is greatly increased. A worksite supervisor or foreman should always be aware of workers on a crane and take proper steps to make sure they stay safe.
- Fall while near a crane: If you are loading or unloading cargo or materials lifted up to a raised location by a crane, it is important to always be in communication with the crane operator and ensure everyone knows what they are doing. Sudden shifts or movements by the crane or its cargo can result in a worker's imbalance, which can end up in a fall.
- Fall after impact with a crane: Impact from a crane itself can also cause serious injuries. Crane operators must always communicate with others working near the crane to ensure they are a safe distance from it before it moves in any way. Any contact between a worker and a crane in operation can be disastrous, and combined injuries from a crane impact and fall are often fatal.
When a construction worker suffers enough physical trauma in a fall to damage his spinal cord, he can be paralyzed. The spinal cord carries messages from the brain to the muscles. Damage to the spinal cord can disrupt this communication.
Depending on where and how bad the spinal cord injury is, paralysis can be in just one area, or widespread. When the spinal cord is damaged in the neck, it can result in quadriplegia, which is paralysis of both arms and legs. When the trauma affects only the lower half of the body, it is known as paraplegia.
Paralysis is a permanent disability that prevents victims from returning to work. Treatment and rehabilitation for victims can be costly, adding up to millions of dollars over a person's lifetime.
These are other injuries a victim of a fall may suffer:
- Bruises and lacerations: Minor injuries from a fall can include cuts and bruises. While painful, these injuries can indicate more serious issues. Major bruising might warn of internal injuries, and cuts can become infected if not cleaned properly.
- Tissue damage: Damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments is not only very painful but greatly restricts movement. These kinds of injuries can take months to heal and seriously hinder a person's lifestyle. Serious injuries can require invasive surgery to repair.
- Broken bones: Broken bones hinder mobility and take months to heal properly. Professional medical attention is required to make sure a broken bone is set correctly to mend. Broken bones are common not just from falls, but from impacts with a crane as well.
- Neck and shoulder injuries: Minor injuries to the neck and shoulders can be extremely painful and can indicate more serious injuries. Nerves running through the neck and shoulders are responsible for nearly all bodily movement, so any damage to these areas can be serious. Chronic pain often results from these kinds of injuries, requiring medical pain management and physical therapy for recovery.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Perhaps the most serious injuries from a fall are those to the head and brain. Even minor brain injuries can cause sensory loss, memory loss, and complete changes in personality. More serious injuries can lead to coma, permanent disability, and may even be fatal. During a fall, head protection can come off, making brain injuries more likely than in many other types of construction accidents.
Falls from heights account for 33% of all deaths at construction sites. Scaffolding, open sides, and ladders are the most common culprits. If a construction company does not properly maintain its equipment or follow safety guidelines, a slight miscalculation by a worker or unavoidable trip becomes a tragedy.
Proving that a fall was caused by the construction company’s negligence can be quite difficult, so an experienced NY personal injury lawyer is necessary to make a strong case. When negligence is demonstrated, the victim can get compensation for medical bills and other expenses, not to mention pain and suffering. Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, has worked vigorously on behalf of many injured construction workers to get compensation for their preventable injuries:
- $11.1 Million Verdict - Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, was able to obtain a verdict of over $11 million for a construction worker who fell from a ladder at a New York high school. Our client struck his head after falling from the ladder, which resulted not only in serious medical expenses, but also in severe changes in his personality and psychological well-being. Proving these changes required the testimony of a neuropsychologist, psychiatrist, and other professionals. Despite a vigorous opposing defense, we were able to win fitting compensation for our client's pain and suffering and medical expenses.
- $2.4 Million Settlement - While working in a building, a plumber fell about 10 feet from a ladder and suffered serious physical injury as a result. We were able to demonstrate that the ladder was old and not properly maintained, which made it unsafe for our client to use during work on the roof. This resulted in the fall that required extensive medical treatment, including arthroscopic surgery and the insertion of a screw to reduce the extent of a fracture. By demonstrating the extent of these injuries, and the liability of the company involved, we obtained a settlement of over $2 million following mediation, without the need of a lengthy trial.
- $1.75 Million Verdict - After falling about 6 feet from a ladder while drilling holes in a ceiling, a plumber suffered extensive physical injuries. We demonstrated that the ladder was not properly maintained and that additional protective devices should have been supplied to keep our client safe while working. This negligence made the defendant liable for our client's injuries, which required arthroscopic surgery and lumbar surgery to properly treat. Fortunately, our client was able to return to work and not lose earnings due to his injury, but he still received a verdict of well over $1 million to pay medical expenses and compensate him for his pain and suffering.
These types of injuries from falls are all too common; usually due to faulty equipment or a lack of proper safety gear at a work site. Such negligence is not only dangerous for workers, but is grounds for liability if an accident and injury does occur. Do not suffer in silence. If you have been injured due to a fall on a construction site, whether from a ladder or crane, it might not have been your fault. Your employer should keep the site safe, which includes proper maintenance and replacement of ladders, and providing safety equipment to minimize injuries when an accident does occur.
Disability payments may not be enough to cover all of your medical expenses and loss of income due to serious construction site injuries. DO NOT accept a settlement from your employer's insurance provider without consulting our experienced NY construction accident attorneys.
Victims of construction accident injuries and paralysis can receive fair compensation with the aid of experienced attorney. If you are suffering from a job-related injury, a construction accident attorney can help you get support for your current and future medical bills, as well as pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. Let Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, help. Contact us today for a free consultation.
- Construction Companies Can Save Lives with Proper Fall Protection
- What Kinds of Construction Accidents can Cause Paralysis?
- Dangers of Scaffolding on New York Construction Sites
- Ladder Hazards and Construction Safety
- Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
NY Construction Site Fall Accident Verdicts & Settlements
$11.1 Million - Construction Accident: Fall from Ladder Causing Brain Injury
$8.2 Million - Construction Accident: Fall Resulting in Paralysis
$7.25 Million - Scaffolding Fall Accident: Fall from Ladder
$2.4 Million - Construction Accident: Fall from Ladder
$2.1 Million - Laborer Fell through Floor
$2 Million - Five Story Fall on Job Site
$1.9 Million - Fall from Upper Floor During Home Building
$1.75 Million - Workplace Accident: Fall from Ladder
$400,000 - Construction Accident Ladder Fall