Boston Attorney for Construction Fall Injuries + Deaths
No one expects that a job in construction is the safest in the world, but that doesn’t mean construction companies shouldn’t do whatever they can to protect their workers and keep them safe. But falls are a serious problem on construction sites, especially when a worker is working at an elevation that is ten feet high or higher.
Falls from heights on construction job sites can result in serious injuries and, in some cases, death. Of all the deaths that happen in the construction industry, falling is responsible for a third of them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed that in 2007 at least 442 construction workers were killed because of falls. In the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that fatal work injuries are on the rise. There were 5,333 fatal work injuries in the United States across all industries, a 2% increase over the prior year. Fatalities from falls, slips and trips increased 11% across all industries in 2019 over the prior year. That same study showed that there were 1,066 fatalities from construction accidents — a 6% increase in 2019 over the prior year – which represents the highest number of construction worker deaths since 2007.
Were you or a loved one injured after falling at a construction site job? Contact our Boston workers’ compensation attorney John J. Sheehan for a free case review at 617-925-6407.
Common Reasons Construction Workers Fall on the Job in Boston
With so many falls happening and resulting in serious injury or death both construction worker unions and the National Institute of Occupational Safety decided to launch the National Campaign To Prevent Falls In Construction in April 2012 that would look at common causes of construction falls, and work to provide the proper education and equipment in order to prevent those falls from happening. The campaign launched a variety of educational materials such as infographics and videos to help educate construction contractors and workers about the danger of fatal falls in the construction industry. According to the campaign, roofers die in construction accidents ten times more than all other construction trades. In fact, falls from roofs is the number one cause of death for construction workers under the age of 44. Falls from ladders is the number one cause of death for construction workers over the age of 55. Older workers over the age of 65 and immigrant workers have the highest risk of fatal falls due to a construction accident. The campaign message focuses primarily on seeing that contractors and construction workers do better safety planning on every project, provide the proper equipment for the job that needs to be done, and that the contractors and workers have the right training and understanding of how to use that equipment in a way that will keep workers safe.
In my experience representing injured construction workers since 1993, there are a few common reasons that workers sustain a construction accident fall injury.
- Unguarded Or Uncovered Holes. I have handled several cases over the years involving a fall through a floor opening on a construction site. Falls through a hole in the floor at a construction job site can result in devastating injuries including a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury (TBI), paralysis, fractures and even death.
- Unprotected Work Platforms or Floor Openings. An unprotected work platform or floor opening exposes workers to the risk of falling. It’s not enough to simply have a single board nailed to eliminate the risk of fall injuries. OSHA regulations require a guardrail and toe-board to prevent workers from accidentally falling over the edge of the work platform or floor on the building under construction.
- Personal Protective Equipment. When contractors fail to provide their employees with personal protective equipment such as a safety harness and safety line, the construction workers are forced to work at heights without any fall protection. That’s an accident waiting to happen.
It’s not enough to provide safety equipment to prevent construction accident fall injuries. Contractors must provide adequate training, so that their employees know rules and safety regulations that will help mitigate the risk of fall injuries. Also, contractors must inspect the construction site to identify potential fall injury safety hazards and correct them before an accident happens. That’s why the best safety practices to prevent fall injuries include daily walkthroughs, daily logs, daily reports and safety talks or tool-box talks.
While each subcontractor has a responsibility for safety, (as explained below) the Prime Contractor or General Contracture is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of all workers on the construction site.
OSHA and Construction Site Falls in Boston
The bottom line is that in most cases when construction workers are killed or seriously injured from a fall it is because they did not have adequate fall protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues various workplace safety regulations for a number of industries, including construction, and they have declared fall protection thresholds that contractors have a responsibility to know and follow.
The requirements range from having proper railings in place for workers who are elevated four feet above the ground, when the height reaches six feet for construction workers, a personal fall arrest system or safety net must be in place. Body belts are required even in situations where there is risk of a fall that is just a couple feet. Portable ladders are not allowed on elevated work areas, and fixed ladders between twenty and thirty feet need safety cages. Workers at even higher heights must be connected to a steel frame in order to prevent falls.
In order to prevent fall injuries on construction sites, OSHA requires that employers:
- Guard all holes in floors to prevent construction workers from falling through hole. Employers must install a guardrail and toe-board around the hole or cover the hole securely.
- Install guardrails and toe-boards around all elevated open work platforms and floors.
- Provide guardrails and toe-boards around dangerous machines and equipment regardless of height.
- Provide personal protective equipment to prevent falls including, safety harness and safety line and safety nets.
When falls do occur, it is usually because the construction contractor violated OSHA safety regulations to prevent fall injuries. The safety violations could include failing to train the construction workers concerning the dangers of fall injuries and fall prevention measures, failing to install safety equipment to prevent falls such as guard rails and not covering holes in floors and failing to provide personal protective equipment for fall prevention and, just as important, enforce the use of safety equipment to prevent fall injuries.
Preventing a Fall on a Construction Site in Boston
If you work in construction, you will obviously want to try not to fall. If you notice that your job site is using equipment that does not adequately provide the fall protection you need, it is important to communicate with your foreman and possibly your union about assuring that the right equipment is provided. There may be lesser protections in place, but if these fail the consequences can be dire, and it is simply not worth the risk.
Even when everything looks fine, it is important to communicate with others on the job and look out for one another. If someone else falls or is otherwise hurt be prepared to be a witness to what happened.
Better communication about safety and better scheduling and coordination of the work among the different subcontractors can go a long way to reducing or even eliminating the risk of all injuries.
For example, a hole is cut in a floor for a stairway opening before the framing subcontractor is ready to install the stairway from the first floor to the basement. Workers cover the hole with plywood screwed to the floor. However, workers repeatedly unscrew and remove the plywood to access the basement, leaving the hole uncovered and unprotected. All the workers are now exposed to falling through the uncovered hole. In this example, if they had only waited to cut the hole until the framers were ready to install the stairway immediately, this hazard could have been eliminated and the workers would not have been put at risk of falling through an uncovered hole in the floor.
Training, inspection, communication and enforcement go a long way to identifying and eliminating hazards that could result in construction accident fall injuries. This cannot be a one and done exercise either. A good safety plan must be done on a daily basis consistently. It is essential that the general contractor and subcontractor act proactively to eliminate hazards that will expose workers to fall injuries.
What to Do if You Are Injured in a Construction Site Fall in Boston
When a fall happens because of the lack of adequate fall protection, the responsibility often lies in one of two places. Under OSHA health and safety regulations for the construction industry, the prime contractor or general contractor for the construction project has a non-delegable duty for the health and safety of ALL workers on the construction project. If a construction worker employed by a subcontractor is injured from a fall on a construction job site due to a violation of an OSHA safety regulation, the worker may be able to file a Third-Party Claim against the General Contractor seeking compensation for the worker’s damages including compensation for pain and suffering. In addition to the General Contractor, the injured worker may be able to bring a Third-Party Claim against another subcontractor on the construction project that created the dangerous condition that caused the fall injury. Oftentimes, injured construction workers may be able to file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against both the General Contractor and Subcontractor seeking damages for their injuries.
Besides a third-party claim, the injured workers may receive workers’ compensation benefits through their employer’s workers compensation insurer. For large construction projects involving numerous construction trades and subcontractors, it is common that the construction project has workers compensation coverage for all workers under the general contractor. These project-based workers compensation arrangements are called Contractor Controlled Insurance Program or CCIP for short. One of the main purposes of a CCIP is to save money for buying separate insurance coverage – both liability insurance as well as workers comp insurance – for all the contractors working on the project. The injured construction worker may still file a third-party lawsuit against the General Contractor as long as the injured worker was not a direct employee of the general contractor and provided, of course, that there is evidence that the fall injury was caused by the general contractor’s negligence by violating OSHA safety regulations for the construction industry. The contractor will likely have some sort of policy in place as well as insurance, but it is still important to either contact a Boston construction accident lawyer yourself or have someone take that step for you if you are unable to do so.
If it is determined that the equipment used was supposed to provide adequate fall protection, but it was not built correctly, then a third-party claim may be filed against the manufacturer of the defective safety equipment. These types of claims against manufacturers for defective safety equipment are a type of product liability claim. There could be other companies liable too in a product liability claim depending on the facts of the case.
Contact Our Boston Construction Site Fall Injury + Death Lawyers Today
Regardless of what the cause seems to be at the moment, it is likely that a full investigation will need to be conducted in order to see what really happened, which is why a Boston personal injury lawyer needs to get involved right away. Others may tell you that they will handle things after an accident, but if it is you or someone close to you that has been hurt or killed it’s best to contact a personal injury or wrongful death attorney yourself.
Call our Boston construction site fall injury and wrongful death attorney John J. Sheehan today for a free consultation at 617-925-6407.