4-6. Construction Accidents
An Overview of Construction Site Injury, Types of Injuries, How They Occur & Statistics
Construction Site Injury Overview
Working on a construction site is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States today. Severe construction site accidents often result in serious bodily harm, long-term disability and in some cases death.
Construction workers may be injured due to the negligence of others or the failure of others to follow proper safety procedures. Workers may suffer unexpected falls due to insufficiently designed and implemented scaffolding or be injured due to inferior bracing or mechanical defects in the tools or vehicles used at the site.
Employers, general contractors and subcontractors are legally responsible for implementing safety measures, for warning those present of hazards on the site, and for hiring properly trained workers who are capable of using all equipment safely.
Claims for compensations for construction site injuries can be difficult due to labor laws limiting the claims against employers. In the state of California most cases must be filed through the California Workers' Compensation Act, however if a third party such as an architect, contractor, property owner or equipment manufacturer can be proven at fault then the injured party may be able to file a third party liability lawsuit.
Types of Construction Site Injuries
Minor or normal injuries such as scrapes and minor scratches, bruises, sprains, low back pain and tendonitis may all be considered a natural part of the construction occupation but more severe traumas also occur.
Serious construction site injuries may include brain trauma, deep wounds, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, dislocation, burns, hearing loss and blinding injuries. Wounds may result in infections, severed or damaged nerves, partial or full paralysis, amputation and coma.
White finger syndrome, a serious condition that can develop in construction workers who regularly use vibrating power tools, is a muscular disorder that leads to numbness, tingling, lack of sensitivity and discomfort in the fingers due to reduced blood flow and circulation. This gradually leads to loss of strength in one's hands, loss of sleep due to pain and a limited ability to continue working in the construction industry.
Raynaud's syndrome, similar to white finger syndrome, is also a semi-frequent result of using power tools. More damaging than White Finger Syndrome, it limits the flow of blood to all extremities including the finger, ears and nose. These circulatory difficulties can lead to long-term health problems, gangrene and possibly amputation in some cases.
How Construction Site Injuries Occur
The leading cause of construction site injuries is falls. Any area that rises 6 feet or more above the lowest level of a construction site is legally required to have fall protection, whether it is a roof, a ramp, walkways, a trench wall or other elevated situations. Fall protection includes guardrails, safety nets, individual harnesses and warning light systems.
Vehicular crashes, the second leading cause of construction site injuries are crashes between one or more motor vehicles present on a construction site. To prevent such injuries and accidents, all motor vehicles present on a construction site must have fully operational brake systems and emergency brakes as well as windows and doors, power windshield wipers and audible warning systems. All vehicles and equipment intended for night use must also have reflectors and lights for visibility.
Other construction site injuries can be caused by excavation accidents, electrocution, and impact from falling objects, gas explosions, logging incidents and long-term health problems from exposure to toxic substances or noise levels. Excavation accidents can involve falls, explosions, slippery surfaces or interaction with faulty or mismanaged equipment. Electrical burns or electrocution are ever-present dangers at any construction site. Unmarked or exposed wiring, electrical systems in older buildings and wet areas all contribute to this deadly danger.
Construction Site Injury Statistics
• In the United States approximately 1500 construction workers are involved in fatal construction site injuries annually.
• 33% of all fatal construction site injuries result from falls.
• Construction site injuries account for 1 out of every 5 job-related fatalities and 1 of every 10 non-fatal injuries in the United States.
• California has the third highest incidence of construction site injuries.
• Males account for large majority of construction site injuries.
• Vehicular collisions account for nearly 25% of all construction site injuries.
• 18% of construction site fatalities were due to falling objects.
• 10% of construction site fatalities are due to electrocution.
• Construction laborers have the highest death rate of construction workers followed closely by carpenters and roofers.
• Non-fatal personal injuries and work-related illnesses on construction sites are 37% over-exertion injuries, 14% contusions and 21% back injuries.
• Over 30,000 construction workers suffer some form of musculoskeletal disorder annually as a result of their profession.
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