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An Overview of Construction Fall Injuries and Deaths

Steve Wagner

Synopsis

  • Many American workers, regardless of industry or occupation, are exposed to daily hazards while performing their job tasks, but construction employees carry major risks of being involved in worksite accidents.
  • Authorities say an Indianapolis construction worker was recently injured in a work-related accident after his equipment failed and he fell 20 feet and suffered back and neck injuries.
  • When working conditions are not regularly monitored for safety and compliance per standards of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), workers are put at risk of suffering a serious or fatal injury.
  • Construction workers who have suffered fall injuries while on the job can file a work injury lawsuit to seek settlement for damages incurred by proving employer negligence and an unsafe working environment.

Indy Construction Worker in Stable Condition After Dangerous Fall

The Indianapolis Fire Department recently rescued a 41-year-old injured worker from the upper floors of the former Ford plant on the east side after he fell from the fourth floor of the building. The Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief said in his reports that it is believed a scissor lift the worker was operating fell and then caused the him to fall about 20 feet. The man is currently in stable condition with back and neck injuries.

While we don’t know many of the circumstances behind this incident, it seems fitting to remind employers that OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance. To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

OSHA also requires employers to:

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.

This worker is lucky to be alive as most construction site worker falls end in tragedy. In fact, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The workplace injury attorneys at Wagner Reese wish this worker a swift and productive recovery.

Understanding Construction’s Fatal Four

In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 991 construction workers died on the job, with 38.7 percent of those fatalities resulting from falls. Fall fatalities remain No. 1 on the list commonly referred to by Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) as the Fatal Four.

The “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (63.7%) the construction worker deaths in 2016, IOSHA reports. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. This list categorizes and accounts for the activities that relate to nearly 60 percent of construction workplace deaths every year.

  1. Falls: 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction (38.7%)
  2. Struck-by Object: 93 (9.4%)
  3. Electrocutions: 82 (8.3%)
  4. Caught-in/between*: 72 (7.3%)

*This category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material.

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Employers must take measures in their workplaces to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.

Workers Are Protected by Regulations Put in Place to Keep Them Safe

Indiana workers have the right to a workplace that undergoes regular inspections, and they also have the right to report errors, dangers, and injuries without the fear of retaliation from an employer, discrimination, or the loss of a job. Workers are entitled to see full reports of the safety inspections done in their workplace, so they have the information they need to stay safe but the simple truth remains that it is the responsibility of every employer to ensure a safe work environment for their workers.

In the case of a workplace fatality, death benefits are secured under Indiana’s workers’ compensation laws but that is often not enough to cover the surviving family members’ living expenses in the absence of their loved one. A wrongful death claim in these cases can help a family carry on, even without the ongoing income and support of their loved one. In the event of a work-related accident that results in a wrongful death, the benefactors of the deceased person could be eligible for funeral expenses and burial costs, as well as 500 weeks of death benefit payments. These payments may be available in a lump sum, or in structured payments.

Filing an Indiana Workers’ Comp Claim

Like other personal injury cases in Indiana, there are time limits to file a claim. Under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act, injured employees have two years from the date of injury to file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Indiana Work Comp Board. However, the time to file can be extended if temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are being received.

Employers are not allowed to fire employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim or retaliate against them. But if they are fired because their injury prevents them from performing their job, then the employer or the insurer would be obligated to pay out Temporary Total Disability payments.

We Support Your Work Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

If you have been injured in your workplace due to employer negligence, the work injury attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to support your workers’ compensation claim. If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or employer negligence, wrongful death damages can be awarded. We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won.

Connect with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information and respond promptly. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.

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