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NJ Construction Safety, Accidents and Remedies

NJ Construction Safety, Accidents and Remedies

Sometimes people go down putting buildings up. Construction sites are dangerous and construction workers must often commend their safety to outside factors, such as the safety standards of the foreman, level of experience of coworkers, quality of equipment, weather and the environment. While safety statutes, regulations and rules are designed to reduce risk, a collapse of any of these factors can result in critical injuries and even death.

Construction Worker Pinned by Backhoe Bucket

Recently a New Jersey construction worker was injured in a Delaware accident. He was trapped in the ditch at Governor Printz Boulevard near Wilmington for two hours. A coworker was trying to connect the bucket to a backhoe when it slid down the embankment, pinning Robert Lopes in the ditch, nearly 20 feet deep.

Lopes was freed by firefighters and taken to a nearby hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. Not all construction workers get rescued, however. In fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, shows preliminary data of 969 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. Earlier reports reflect injuries to construction workers ranging from 1,131 to 1,234 in 2008, also according to preliminary data.

Common Worksite Dangers

Many things contribute to construction site dangers. Faulty equipment, human error and inclement weather all increase the risk of an accident. Although safety precautions can reduce the potential for injury or death on job sites, some construction workers are exposed to the danger of:

  • Crane accidents
  • Ladder, scaffolding or staging accidents
  • Electric shock
  • Falls from roofs or stairs
  • Equipment failure

Due to the nature of the work and the heavy equipment used, risk of serious injury in an accident is significant, and has involved:

  • Spinal cord damage
  • Paralysis
  • Brain injury
  • Back pain and back injury
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Chest injuries
  • Death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an important guardian of safety standards for construction and other workers.

Safety Rules and Violations

OSHA Construction Standards are the legal requirements for the minimum protection that employers must provide to their employees. Some employers do knowingly or unknowingly violate these minimum requirements, though, and are then subject to fines for citations. In addition, employers who are cited must abate, or fix, the violation.

According to the OSHA Web site, among the most common federal OSHA standards cited for violation from October 2008 through September 2009 were:

  • Availability of fall protection
  • Ladders
  • Hazard communication
  • Aerial lifts
  • Head protection
  • Training requirements
  • Wiring methods, components and equipment for general use
  • Fall protection systems criteria and practices
  • Respiratory problems

When construction employers fail to provide an appropriate standard of care to their employees, they leave themselves open to workers’ compensation and other claims.

Remedies and Compensation

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault insurance program designed to provide benefits to workers who are injured on the job, regardless of fault. In exchange for being spared the time and expense of litigation in seeking administrative claims, workers generally give up the right to sue their employers in court when they are hurt at work.

In some instances, however, injured workers may have a claim against their employer or a third party. If the injury is caused by the employer’s intentional acts, the employee can seek workers’ compensation benefits and also pursue a court action against the employer.

In 2002, the New Jersey Supreme Court explained in Laidlow v. Hariton Machinery Co., Inc., that an intentional act is not limited to overt acts intended to cause harm, but may also include “instances where an employer knows the consequences of those acts are substantially certain to result in such harm.”

Alternatively, some employees may have a third-party claim, which is a claim against a party other than their employer. For example, workers may have a claim against the manufacturer or distributor of a defective product or tool that caused their injuries. If the property owner, contractor or subcontractor caused the accident, the employee may have a claim for damages. Additionally, sometimes construction injuries are covered by one or more private insurance policies.

An experienced workplace injury attorney can assist injured employees in seeking and obtaining a second medical opinion, preserving evidence and determining how to proceed. A knowledgeable lawyer will assist in navigating the administrative claims process and also litigate a common law claim if the injured worker opts to pursue a court action.