A report from the Center for Construction Research And Training found that during a lifetime of working in the construction trades, a worker has a five-time greater risk of dying on the job than non-construction industries.
The study looked at injuries and death over a 45-year period of work. Other significant findings of the study indicated that Hispanic workers have a 20 percent higher chance of dying from a work-related injury.
Presented at the American Public Health Association's October convention, the author was quoted at the seminar as saying, "Construction workers make up 6 percent to 8 percent of all workers, but account for 20 percent of all deaths on the job every year."
Construction workers, even if not killed, also were found to have a 75 percent greater likelihood of suffering injures that cause them to miss work in a career lasting from age 20 to age 65.
Beyond direct work-related injuries, construction workers who live to age 85 have a higher chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other dust-related diseases.
Construction Work is Dangerous
The obvious statement is that construction work is dangerous. Some of this inevitable, in view of the tasks being carried out; working high on a scaffold, handling high-current power lines, working around 40-ton dump trucks and earth-moving equipment, and working underground and in confined spaces, there are abundant circumstances that can kill or maim a worker.
Falls Number One
The number one cause of death for construction workers is falls. This can be due to insufficient safety equipment, problems with ladders, and dangerous roofs. Smaller employers, working on residential projects, may be exempt from OSHA standards, contributing to more dangerous working conditions.
Transportation accidents are the next most common cause of death. This covers a broad range of incidents, ranging from truck accidents on the highway to workers falling off moving equipment. Contact with objects/equipment is third, followed by exposure to harmful substances/environments.
In a study from 2005, the most dangerous occupations in the construction industry were ironworker, meaning structural iron and steel workers, with 68.9 deaths per 100,000 employees.
The Second place the most dangerous construction occupation was electrical power installers, with 57.3 work-related deaths per 100,000. These numbers, while troubling, represent a marked improvement from the early 1990s, when they were 143 and 149 respectively.
For most injured workers, their first resource after an injury is the workers' compensation insurance their employer is required to maintain. Unlike some states, which exempt some small employers, in New Jersey, workers' compensation or self-insurance is mandatory for all employers, even a sole proprietorship, if they have one employee in addition to the principal owner. It is also required for employees of out-of-state employers working in New Jersey.
Workers compensation is an insurance program that is designed to afford workers reasonably rapid compensation for work-related injuries. The system does not allow workers to sue their employers, but employees receive the benefit of not having to go to court to prove the negligence of their employers to recover compensation for the injury.
The system provide both payments for medical expenses caused by the injury and supplemental income (typically 70 percent of the average weekly wage) if the injury keeps a worker off the job for longer than a 7 day period.
It also provides for longer-term disability payments in the case of severe injuries and permanent disability if the worker can demonstrate that they have lost all ability to reenter the workplace.
A death benefit is available for the family of a worker who dies on the job. The calculation of a specific benefit is rather involved, with multiple factors, and a workers' compensation attorney can better answer how much a the estate of a deceased worker might be likely to receive.
The option of a personal injury lawsuit is particularly significant for the construction trades; what makes personal injury recoveries possible for construction workers is the presence many employers and their workers at a single jobsite.
While office workers may work for an employer in an office building where nearly everyone works for the same employer, at a construction site there may be dozens of separate subcontractors.
If your injuries were the result of the negligence of an employee of another contractor or subcontractor, even if you are covered by workers' compensation insurance by your employer, you would have the opportunity to sue another contractor for their or their employees' negligence in causing your injuries.