Today there are over 150 million workers employed in the United States by some 10 million employers. Thousands of workers are injured or killed at work and construction sites each year. Many of these accidents involve falls, defective machinery, explosions and scaffolding accidents. Injuries caused by these accident are usually severe and result in serious disability that prevents the injured from returning to work.
WORKPLACE INJURY – CAUSES OF WORKPLACE DEATHS
In 2002, “highway” crashes, which include incidents involving vehicles on all public roadways – were the leading cause of job-related fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accounting for a quarter of all fatal work injuries.
Construction site accidents were also a leading cause of worker deaths in the United States. As many as 50 people die in crane accidents each year and there are an estimated 10,000 workers injured in scaffolding accidents each year.
Contact with objects and equipment also ranked high as a major cause of on-the-job fatalities. Homicides fell to their lowest levels since the inception of the BLS Census of Fatal Injuries, down 44 percent from 1994, the highest level on record.
WORKPLACE INJURY – EMPLOYERS RESPONSIBILITY TO DEVELOP SAFETY RULES
Many of these accidents could have been prevented if proper safety precautions were taken. The site manager is responsible to develop clear safety rules and guidelines concerning safety precautions and ensure these rules are enforced. People in charge of the site may be held responsible for any accidents that occur. Often workers are asked to perform unsafe tasks and fear to complain out of concern for their job.
Manufacturers of construction equipment are responsible designing and maintaining safe products. Defective or dangerous products may include the following: scaffolding, cranes, power tools, derricks, hoists, conveyors, woodworking tools, ladders, winches, trucks, graters, scrapers, tractors, bulldozers, forklifts, back hoes, heavy equipment, boilers, pressure vessels, gas detectors and other types of construction equipment.
WORKPLACE INJURY – THIRD PARTY LIABILITY
It is often possible to find liable third parties in the event of an accident or injury. Since most sites involve many subcontractors, it is very common to locate several potential third party Defendants. The lawyer may also consider claims against the general contractor, who may be responsible for supervision and may be contractually responsible for the injury. In more complex cases, the legal principles of Agency and analysis of corporate law may lead to sophisticated determinations as to who is technically an “employee” and who the “third parties” are in a given situation.
WORKPLACE INJURY – WORKER’S COMPENSATION
Workers’ Compensation law is designed to help injured workers as well as employers in dealing with the problems of health insurance. The Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment. The benefits under Workers’ Comp include weekly payments based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage for temporary total disability, partial disability, permanent and total disability and permanent loss of function and disfigurement. Workers’ Comp also covers medical expenses for treatment that is reasonable, necessary and related to the industrial injury and vocational rehabilitation services.