Construction workers have always been at high risk of being injured, possibly fatally. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled some statistics regarding the construction industry:
* One of every five workplace fatalities is a construction worker.
* There were 1,225 fatal occupational injuries in construction in 2001, excluding fatalities on September 11. Also in 2001, there were 481,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in construction. Incidence rates for nonfatal injuries and illnesses were 7.9 per 100 full-time equivalent workers in construction, and 5.7 per 100 full-time equivalent workers in all private industry in 2001.
* Because only about 10% of construction companies employ more than 20 workers, the great majority have no formal job safety regulations or programs in place.
* In 1992, the “lost-workday” rate for workers in the construction industry was 5.7 per every 100 full-time workers. This lost-workday rate was the highest of any major economic sector.
* Nationwide, about 15% of workers’ compensation costs are attributable to injuries in the construction industry.
Almost every injury that construction workers suffer could makes the worker eligible for workers compensation rights. Those limited rights, however may be supplemented by legal actions against others who have responsibility for various activities on the job site, including construction managers, general contractors, subcontractors, equipment manufacturers, etc. The individual circumstances of the accident and how the complicated laws will be applied to it will affect these rights.
For example, in most construction projects, many different contractors are involved. If any contractor other than the direct employer has responsibility for the injuries, full damages can be recovered. Likewise, if a defective tool, machine, or other product causes injury, an injured worker can be fully compensated.
Construction workers have a right to a safe workplace according to OSHA, the Federal governing body for occupational safety and health. If a workplace hazard exists and action is not taken quickly, an employee should contact an OSHA area office or state office via a written complaint. If the OSHA or state office determines that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a violation or danger exists, the office will conduct an inspection. An OSHA compliance officer may have a workers’ representative conduct the inspection with them, as it is their right. A union member, if there is one, or the employees choose the representative. At no time may the workers’ representative be chosen by the employer. The inspector may conduct a comprehensive inspection of the entire workplace or a partial inspection limited to certain areas or aspects of the operation. At the end of the inspection, the OSHA inspector will meet with the employer and the employee representatives to discuss the abatement of any hazards that may have been found. These need to be corrected or serious penalties and legal liabilities may arise.