Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.

Articles Tagged with construction accident

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NYC construction workers Failure to provide fall protection to workers  continues to be the most frequent violation found by OSHA inspectors while visiting construction sites or any other work site of other industries. From October 1st 20017 to September 20 2018, OSHA issued 7,270 violations to employers who failed to provide their employees with appropriate fall protection. Falls are also the number one cause of death on American construction sites. One of the most serious violators was Kasper Roofing & Construction in Florida. OSHA proposed a fine of $134,510 after the death of a roofer. Roofers for this company were working with no protection at all and without any safety training on fall hazards.

The second most common OSHA citation was related to hazard communication. Companies using toxic or dangerous chemicals and substances are required by law to proprely identify and label these products. They have to make sure that their employees know about the potential danger of these products by providing them with appropriate training on how to work with or near these products. At the beginning of this month an employee at a drilling company in Alabama died after flammable welding gas stored in an unventilated storage container exploded when he opened the door of the container. The employer, Legend Directional Services LLC, was cited by OSHA for failing to train employees on hazards associated with flammable chemicals. The company is facing a $28,455 fine.

Scaffold violations were the third most common violation found by OSHA inspectors. 3,336 companies were cited over the last year for unsafely using scaffolds. The highest proposed fine was $120,320 to Appleton roofing contractor Hector Hernandez. Hernandez employees were neither trained on fall hazards nor provided with fall protection equipment. The contractor also failed to install an extension ladder for safe egress  and failed to provide required ladder jack scaffold components.

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From 2008 to 2016 the rate of  fatal construction accidents at small construction employers in the US grew by 57% while during the same period it decreased by 30% at construction companies employing more than 20 employees. 37% of the construction workforce is hired by small contractors but they account for 67.2% of all fatalities according to a recent report published by the Center for Construction Research and Training.

The construction industry in the US is mostly made of small businesses with 1 to 9 employees. According to 2016 statistics, 82% of payroll establishments in the construction industry had fewer than 10 employees and 9% had between 10 and 19 employees. Which means only 9% of employers are big companies. Big companies usually have better health and safety programs than small construction companies that sometimes struggle with increased competition and  have limited resources.

The major causes of fatalities in the construction industry continue to be what OSHA calls the “Construction Focus Four”:

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Foudation for Safety LearningTo prevent construction accidents in New York, every hard hat in the city is now required to get at least 40 hours of safety training.  Safety training as well as constantly promoting and encouraging safety on construction sites is an effective way to reduce injuries and deaths related to accidents. It is not only important that every worker be trained on how to safely work but also that foremen and lead workers promote safety practices and apply them on a day to day basis on their job-sites.

Dedicated safety training for lead construction workers

To be effective safety leaders, in addition to the basic safety training, lead workers can highly benefit from specific training such as The Foundations for Safety Learning (FSL).  The FSL is a 2.5- hour training module that is dedicated to train lead workers on construction sites. Developed by OSHA and the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) as well as construction workers and other experts, it was initially released by OSHA as a  a 30-hour elective module in January 2017. It has now been integrated in the training requirements of many small and large employers.

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Virtual reality (VR) can help prevent construction accident injuries and deaths. Recently, the American Society of Safety Professionals developed a virtual reality app for fall protection training. The app provides an immersive experience where the trainee is transported on the roof of a building, has to identify hazards and select the the proper equipment and tools to execute a dangerous task. The advantage of virtual reality is that it can virtually put workers in dangerous situations and let them experience how their actions can affect outcomes without taking any safety risks. So far the app is pretty basic but as technology continues to develop, it has a great potential to become a fantastic training tool for fall prevention.

Other simulators such as welding simulators are now used by 30% of union chapters in the US. Virtual sprayers to learn how to paint have also been in use for the last 5 years saving a lot of paint and material. A virtual lift simulator was presented last year at the Iron Workers annual conference as well as a beta version of a virtual training room where several trainees can work together in the same space.  More and more unions are considering adding VR in their training programs especially now that VR providers are trying to bring the costs down.

 

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Opiod deaths in constructionConstruction workers have one of the highest risk of suffering from personal injury during their activity. According to the National Safety Council, more than 70,000 construction workers are injured every year in the US with back injuries and hand injuries being the most common. Nearly all construction workers will suffer at least one occupation related injury during their lifetime. Researchers also found that a construction worker that has a career longer than 45 years has a 75% risk of suffering a disabling injury.

Therefore it is not surprising that construction workers are being prescribed a lot of opioids to treat the pain caused by these injuries.

Usually workers receive compensation during the time that they are injured but it is often not enough to make up for lost pay. Therefore many injured construction workers are using opioids to get back to work faster.

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construction workers with back injuryIn the construction industry, manual lifting and moving heavy materials are the leading causes of disabling injuries. Strains, sprains and related soft tissues injuries affect a majority of construction workers and cost billions of dollars to businesses.  Back injuries are the most common disabling injuries for construction workers and approximately 3 out of 4 back injuries that require time off  to recover are due to over exertion. Other common disabling injuries suffered by construction workers are hand and wrist injuries as well as shoulder injuries. Many of these injuries can be prevented by reducing manual material handling.

PLANNING AND COMMUNICATION ARE KEY TO PREVENT INJURIES

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) is working on creating a new program for contractors to help them with practical tools and information to plan  for safe manual materials handling while staying productive and profitable. The CPWR works with contractors to define the best way to store and move heavy material on construction sites. So far they found that careful planning and communication were key factors in protecting workers from manual lifting injuries.

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Road work in NYCurrent extreme temperature and humidity are exposing New York construction workers to higher risks of accidents related to heat. Road workers especially those handling asphalt as well as house builders working in attics can get easily dehydrated and suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

It is important during hot days, like those we have this week in New York, that employers remind their workers to drink a lot of water and make sure they are well hydrated while they are working. Employers should also ensure that their supervisors are proprely trained to recognize signs of heat exhaustion. When a supervisor sees that a worker starts to be lightheaded, that his color seems a little off or that he starts to sweat more than usual, he should pull him aside and make sure he takes a break in a shady area.

WATER, REST, SHADE

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Berylium62,000 workers including 11,500 construction and shipyard workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplace according to OSHA estimates. Beryllium is a metal used in many applications and industry including medical specialties, aerospace, defense, telecommunications and automotive electronics. Workers who are exposed to dust or fumes of beryllium and beryllium compounds without adequate protection can develop an immune response known as Beryllium Sensitization and progressively develop chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and/or lung cancer. Workers with CBD suffer from lung lesions and lung fibrosis that can prevent the lung to expand fully and oxygenate the blood. While CBD symptoms can be treated, there is no cure for the disease itself.

To protect workers from CBD and lung cancer, OSHA  started Yesterday the enforcement of some of the requirements of its New Rule on Beryllium. The new standards were issued last January by OSHA  and were initially scheduled to be enforced 60 days ago.

The requirements that will be enforced starting Yesterday  are

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Construction_workers_not_wearing_fall_protection_equipmentContractors who failed to protect construction workers from fall accidents and contractors who didn’t follow excavation and trenching safety rules were the ones hit with the biggest OSHA violations. Before Trump was elected, OSHA used to publish a high volume of press releases “shaming contractors” for violating safety rules. The number of press releases decreased but the penalties are among some of the highest OSHA has ever proposed. However many of them are negotiated down. Here are the top 10 recent largest fines:

  1. $1,523,710 for Great White Construction in Jacksonville, Florida related to fall protection and eye hazard violations. This commercial and residential roofer was cited 22 times for the same violations before being fined.  OSHA also listed the contractor in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
  2. $1,475,813 for Atlantic Drain Service Co. in Boston, Massachusetts.  This fine is related to an accident during which two construction workers died after a trench collapsed on them. Atlantic was cited for 18 safety violations and a new regulation was created that requires contractors to disclose their safety history when applying for a building permit in Boston. The owner of Atlantic was charged with manslaughter.
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New York Construction Site with protection against fallFalls are the main cause of deaths in the construction industry. Each year more than 200 hard hats die and more than 10,000 are seriously injured in fall accidents. The National Safety Stand Down Week aims at reducing falls from scaffolds, ladders and roofs by encouraging contractors and anyone working in the construction industry to take 3 simple but efficient measures that can prevent these fall accidents.

Many accidents can be prevented

  • by planning ahead how to execute the task safely