The attorneys of Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. have represented thousands of injured New Yorkers, including workers from almost every trade in construction site accident cases. We have testimonials from many of our clients about how we made a difficult situation easier and provided for their financial security. We’ve seen the deadly consequences that arise from a failure to provide safe working environments, and we’re here to help when an accident happens to you or your family.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a construction accident, contact us at (516) 342-2200 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation.
It is no secret that construction is one of the most injury-prone industries in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has seen a decline in injury rates among most professions during the past two decades ⎯ except for construction workers. Despite OSHA regulations designed to make construction sites safer, many times these requirements are deliberately ignored. Our firm has handled every kind of jobsite accident case, and we know the kinds of work conditions that lead to serious injuries.
Here is a list of common construction site hazards and some precautions that can be taken to minimize workers’ risk of injuries.
Work Site Debris
One of the reasons for jobsite injuries is simply a lack of good housekeeping. Keeping the jobsite clear of debris and discarded materials can greatly improve everyone’s chances of remaining injury free. Here’s what may have caused your injury:
- Slip, trip and fall injuries are frequent occurrences on construction sites. They include knee injuries, ankle sprains, broken wrists, dislocated shoulders and more. Slip, trip and fall accidents often occur because workers are carrying materials through areas that are littered with debris and construction materials. Often what they are carrying impedes their line of sight, causing them to lose their balance and fall.
- Materials with protruding nails or jagged edges are often left lying around work sites, and many workers often step on these materials, tripping and falling and injuring their feet, ankles or legs.
- Uncovered holes and trenches are especially dangerous to workers carrying materials around the job site, posing a serious fall risk.
- The danger presented by scattered debris is even greater when work is being done at elevated levels, where a fall from a great height because a life-threatening reality.
Workers often access buildings via narrow and sometimes steep walkboards, often without railings. Not only is this unsafe, it is against OSHA regulations. Considering that many times workers are carrying materials in and out of the jobsite through entryways, it is important to take safety requirements on the jobsite seriously. When these regulations are ignored, workers can suffer severe injuries.
- When a jobsite entryway is more than 19 inches above the ground, an adequate stairway, ramp, ladder or other safe access is required.
- Ramps and walkways are required to be a minimum of 18 inches wide.
- If the jobsite entryway is more than four feet above ground level, the means of access must have a standard railing on all exposed sides.
- If the walkway exposes workers to an additional hazard such as running machinery or exposed rebar, there must be a guardrail and a toeboard on all open sides, regardless of height.
While most people think of falling hazards in terms of roofing activities, there are also serious falling hazards on other parts of the jobsite. When contractors take shortcuts with these safety measures, construction workers sometimes pay the ultimate price.
- Open-sided floors: Workers focused on the task at hand often step backwards without looking first. When the floor drops off unexpectedly, this can lead to serious fall injuries and even death.
- Empty stairways: An empty stairway represents a very serious hazard. A badly placed ladder doesn’t improve the safety of the jobsite, either. Safety requires that stairways to a second or higher floor be completed before the studs are raised on that floor.
- No guardrail around stairwell: Even when the stairs have been placed, if there is no guardrail in place, serious falls are often the result.
- Unsecured decking: Workers can be seriously injured when walking on unsecured decking, either by falling between joists or falling on them (“straddling” joists).
- Window openings: Window openings on or above the second floor — where the sill is less than 36 inches from the floor — need to be guarded.
Stepladder Use / Misuse
The common stepladder is one of the leading causes of injury and long-term disability among construction workers. This is largely due to the way stepladders are used, or misused, on construction sites. Here are some examples:
- Working from the top or top step of a stepladder. This can lead to the ladder tipping over. When workers fall six to eight feet, they often suffer disabling injuries to head, legs, ankles or hips.
- Using stepladders in place of secured ladders, scaffolds or stairways to access higher levels. This often leads to ladders tipping over and falls from heights greater than eight feet.
- Leaning unfolded stepladders against walls instead of using a straight ladder. This often leads to the legs sliding back along the floor and the worker landing on his face, often resulting in head and mouth injuries.
- Using household ladders on construction sites. The components of a household ladder are not designed to withstand the weight and stresses of daily use by a worker carrying heavy tools. These ladders often break and workers suffer sprains or broken bones from the falls.
- Patching or repairing broken ladders. Patching and repairs to broken ladders is not advisable, as the components will no longer support the weight and stress they were designed to handle. To be disposed of properly, broken ladders should be cut into several pieces so other workers can’t salvage them.
- Using a stepladder on top of a scaffold. This just takes the normal hazards of the scaffold and the stepladder and compounds them, exponentially increasing the danger of injury.
- Standing or climbing backwards on a stepladder. When you lean away from the center of the stepladder, you are much more likely to lose your balance and fall.
- Reaching too far. When a worker leans too far away from the stepladder, a fall and an injury is often the result. The center of gravity should remain inside the triangle formed by the ladder’s legs to keep it from tipping over. Most times these injuries could have been avoided if a scaffold had been used, a ladder had been secured or an assistant had been present.
- Leaving tools and debris on top of the platform. When the ladder is moved, the tools become falling objects that often hit other workers and injure them.
While many times employers and even workers themselves downplay the importance of jobsite safety, it is no small matter to break an arm or leg or to be permanently disabled. Taking the proper precautions can often prevent serious injuries and fatalities.
If you have been injured in an accident like those described above, you are entitled to workers’ compensation for your injuries. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation rarely provides enough money for all the damages you sustain due to an accident. Often, the workers’ compensation benefits do not even cover all of your lost earnings.
Almost two-thirds of employees injured on the job do not realize that often they can collect workers’ compensation benefits and also sue persons or parties other than their employer for money damages. Responsible parties for your injuries may include:
- The owner of the building or structure;
- The general or prime contractor;
- The project or construction manager;
- Other contractors and subcontractors;
- Even equipment manufacturers.
The construction accident attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. have been handling complex construction litigation cases for almost three decades. We not only understand New York State labor laws but lecture attorneys and judges on New York State construction accidents and labor law. We know how to best maximize your financial recovery and get you the money and benefits you deserve. You may be entitled to money for both past and future:
- Pain and suffering;
- Lost wages;
- Lost income;
- Loss of annuity;
- Loss of pension;
- Loss of Social Security income;
- Loss of health care benefits;
- Loss in the value of household services;
- Medical benefits;
- Loss of consortium – spousal or parent-child relationships that have been negatively impacted by the injury.
When you’ve suffered a serious and severe injury as a result of a construction accident, it’s important that you have the highly experienced and credentialed New York lawyers at Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. at your side. We’ve helped so many like you, come in and look over the volumes of testimonials of others that we have helped. We make a difference. With more than 150 years of combined experience, our attorneys are well-prepared to handle all your legal needs. Call us at (516) 342-2200 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation. We will fight for you!