Articles Posted in Construction site safety

Often times unsafe working conditions at construction sites cause injuries to construction workers who are employed at the project.  However, a recent jury verdict awarding over $18 Million to the operator of a motor vehicle who was caused to lose control of his vehicle, crash and suffer injuries resulting in partial paralysis highlights the dangers that unsafe construction sites can pose to not only the construction workers, but also to the entire community surrounding the construction site.

In this case, the plaintiff was operating his motor vehicle when it struck a raised expansion joint, causing him to lose control of his car, leave the roadway and strike an adjacent stone wall and utility pole.  The defendant construction company had been performing work on the roadway and had left loose gravel and other debris within the traveling lane.  The defendant construction company also placed a partial asphalt patch and left an expansion joint spanning the travel lane that rose about two inches above the ground.  There were no warning signs cautioning drivers that the roadway was being worked on at the time.

This case is a good example of a construction company who did not fulfill their safety responsibilities at a construction site.  Construction companies have a responsibility to perform their work in a reasonably safe manner, and should never be allowed to needlessly endanger anybody, whether it be construction workers who are working at their project, or members of the community such as this person who was injured while driving on a town road.  Construction companies must perform a pre-hazard analysis in order to prevent these types of accidents.  A pre-hazard analysis requires a construction company to determine (at the outset of the project) what unique aspects of each particular project could cause harm to people, and then either plan to eliminate that hazard or if it cannot be eliminated, to take reasonable precautions to prevent people from being exposed to the dangerous condition.  A construction company performing work on a roadway that is open to the public should be expected to know that any conditions that they create which could impair a driver’s ability to navigate that roadway are putting the community at a substantial increased risk of harm, which may be serious injury or death.  Construction companies must take all necessary precautions in order to prevent harm to the people who are expected to be exposed to these dangerous conditions.

Boston’s construction industry saw jobs decline by more than 20 percent during the recession.  However, all signs indicate that Boston’s construction industry is once again booming, with 8,700 construction jobs added between August 2012 and August 2013.  With more construction projects both underway and in the planning phase, this profitable yet dangerous industry is likely to receive more attention for construction site safety practices.  The United States Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a new construction site safety rule aimed to prevent silica exposure to construction workers.  Silica exposure is known to cause  severe lung diseases characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin).

With more construction projects underway and more construction workers being exposed to job site hazards, this new OSHA construction site safety rule is timely.  The rule lowers the legal limit of silica dust that construction workers are permitted to breath by implementing new practices, such as wet cutting and improvements to ventilation.  OSHA estimates that nearly 2.2 million workers in the United States are exposed to silica dust, most of which are employed in the construction industry.

Workers who are diagnosed with lung diseases that are caused by working conditions are entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits.  If the lung condition causes a worker to require medical treatment, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company is responsible for 100% of the resulting medical bills, meaning the worker is not responsible for paying co-payments and deductibles which they otherwise would have to pay by using their health insurance.  If the work-related lung disease prevents a worker from doing the essential functions of his job, then that worker is entitled to weekly workers’ compensation disability benefits (temporary total disability [60% of Average Weekly Wage for up to 3 years], permanent and total disability [66.7% for life] or partial disability {60% of difference between pre-injury average weekly wage and post injury wages, for up to a maximum of 5 years]).  In addition to medical and weekly monetary disability benefits, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer may be responsible for payment of permanent loss of function benefits.

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