Of all the accidents that occur in workplaces, those involving heavy machinery are most likely to result in major injuries and death. In the wake of such accidents, injured workers or the families of deceased workers can suffer severe financial losses in addition to physical and emotional trauma. However, workers' compensation is available to those who have been injured while on the job to deal with these losses.
While your injury may match all criteria to qualify for workers' compensation, the process of receiving benefits is not as easy as you may think. To find success in your application, it is vital that you fully understand your rights as a worker. Through a free consultation with the NYC accident lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, you can be better prepared for the process ahead. We can be reached at (212) 986-7353. We have helped workers throughout New York find the compensation they need to cope with their losses.
Heavy machines are found at construction sites and other workplaces involving manual labor, helping workers complete tasks they could not do on their own. When mistakes are made, these pieces of equipment can suddenly become serious dangers. Equipment like tractors, cranes, and dump trucks are not only tall and weigh several tons, they also are mobile. This means that these vehicles can topple over and land on workers, drop heavy objects that they were carrying, trap workers’ limbs in pivot points, or crash into other equipment.
Usually, those who are injured by heavy machines are not in control of the machinery but are doing separate work at the site. These accidents can occur in a matter of moments, giving workers little time to get out of the way or shield themselves. Even high-quality safety gear may not be enough to protect against heavy machinery.
The construction boom throughout New York is supported by numerous skilled workers who utilize a wide array of equipment to build up and maintain our city. These machines must also be properly operated by well-trained hands and overseen by experienced supervisors to prevent serious accidents. Heavy machinery that can contribute to catastrophic, and sometimes fatal, construction accidents include:
- Motor graders
- Compactors and rollers
- Concrete mixers
The size, weight, and power behind heavy machinery expose workers to a wide variety of dangerous injuries, including those identified as the Fatal Four by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): falls, caught in/pinning, struck by, and electrocution. Each piece of equipment requires stable and focused hands to ensure a construction project is completed as safely as possible. In addition, when not in use, all heavy machinery should be secured and stored properly to avoid safety hazards and prevent disrepair, which can also contribute to an accident.
If a worker negligently handles heavy machinery or the equipment is in disrepair, workers may:
- Be pinned against walls or vehicles
- Get caught in a machine’s pivot point
- Be run over by speeding loaders, forklifts, graders, scrapers, or bulldozers
- Be struck by falling equipment or material
- Fall off scaffolding that is damaged by heavy machinery
- Fall while climbing in or out of machinery
- Be struck and fall into an excavated area
- Suffer an electric shock from faulty machinery
Because of the complex nature of heavy machinery, there may be multiple causes behind an accident. Understanding what led to the accident that caused your injuries is a vital aspect of proving that your losses occurred while on the job, thus proving qualification for workers' compensation or determining if a claim against a third party is a viable option.
- Worker errors: Properly operating a piece of heavy equipment requires thorough training, on-the-job experience, and expert concentration. Should a worker be lacking in any of these areas, he or she may make a crucial mistake that quickly ends in a major accident.
- Improper directions: Supervisors and others in positions of authority have the responsibility to make sure that workers are doing their job properly and have the right training for the work they are doing. If they do not, or instruct employees to take dangerous actions, an accident can occur.
- Dangerous surroundings: Often, worksites that use heavy machinery have dangerous elements, such as incomplete structures, unstable ground, and other pieces of equipment. These may cause or worsen an accident.
- Malfunctions: If the machinery has been defectively designed or manufactured, these defects often remain unknown until they cause an accident. In addition, improperly maintained machinery may break down over time and become a danger to workers.
Just as different factors can cause serious accidents at a worksite, workers can suffer from a wide range of different injuries. Certain injuries are fairly common when it comes to heavy machinery, including:
- Lacerations: Minor cuts and bruises should be treated promptly to avoid infections, but more serious lacerations require medical treatment, including stitches, and can impact a person's ability to work.
- Broken bones: Bones can be easily broken or crushed in an accident with a heavy machine. Broken bones often need medical treatment to ensure they are set properly and can require weeks or months of recovery. More serious breaks and fractures can require multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy afterward.
- Internal injuries: Some of the most serious injuries cannot easily be seen, including damage to the lungs, heart, or other organs. Internal injuries often result from an impact or compression and require medical care both to detect and to properly treat.
- Soft tissue damage: Injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not only painful, but require a great deal of time for recovery. Muscle tears often cause aches, and damaged tendons and ligaments decrease a person's mobility and are very painful.
- Traumatic amputations: Some injuries are so severe that they result in the amputation of a body part. Traumatic amputation can be the direct result of a heavy machinery accident, though severe tissue or limb damage can also require surgical amputation after the fact.
- Neck and shoulder injuries: Injuries to the neck and shoulders are painful, often impacting a person's mobility and quality of life. Even minor neck and shoulder injuries can take a long time to heal and affect someone's work, personal life, and sleep schedule.
- Spinal cord injuries: Minor injuries to the spine can be very painful and require surgery and physical therapy. Severe injuries may result in paralysis, either partial or total, and can disable a person for the rest of his or her life.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Injuries to the brain are often fatal. If not, they can change someone's personality, lead to cognitive impairments, may take months or years to be fully understood.
Different types of guards are used for different types of machinery, but they all serve the same purpose: providing protection between a machine operator or other employees and the machine itself. Some common forms of machine guarding, and similar prevention methods include:
- Point of operation guarding: This is the most common form of machine guarding and is located where the operator of a machine actually works. On a large saw, for example, this would be the area around the saw itself and include a guard over the saw blade.
- Barrels, containers, and drums: Machines with revolving barrels, containers, and drums must have guards that enclose the drive mechanism. This keeps people from coming into contact with these moving parts.
- Blade guarding: Fan blades that are less than seven feet above a work area need to have guards over them to protect workers.
- Anchoring for fixed machinery: Heavy machinery that is always used in the same location should be anchored securely in place. This keeps the machine from moving while in use, which can harm people around it.
- Lockout/tagout systems: A lockout/tagout system is essential to controlling energy in a machine and keeping people safe while they repair or maintain it. This is a system that locks a machine out of use during repairs and uses tags to let others know not to try to operate it.
The NY construction accident lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, have helped countless clients recover from a wide variety of losses that they suffered in the course of their job. Whatever the cause of your injuries, we may be able to help you recover from physical and financial damage and find the compensation to support your needs and the needs of those who depend on you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a heavy machine accident, get in touch with us today by calling (212) 986-7353. The information you gain from a free consultation with our legal team can get you on the right path to recovery.
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