Construction is a dangerous business, and the risk construction workers
face each day is probably greatly underestimated by the general public.
And while it’s winter, and the rest of us are doing our best to
stay out of frigid temperatures, construction workers continue to do their
jobs on some work sites. Most people think all construction sites shut
down for the winter, but that simply isn’t true. Weather may delay
work, but on many days, construction workers head to their work sites
just like every other day. Unlike other days, winter workdays have an
added set of risks for those who are doing outdoor, labor-intensive jobs.
Construction Workers Face Great Risks Year Round
Most people probably have some idea that construction is a dangerous career
to pursue, but I doubt many would guess exactly how negative the long-term
health implications are for a lifetime construction worker. One study
provides evidence that a 45-year career in construction results in a 75%
chance of suffering a disabling injury. That same career construction
worker has a 1/200 likelihood of being killed while on the job. In short,
hundreds of thousands of the 1.5 million construction workers in the United
States are risking their lives one day at a time.
Injuries resulting from serious winter construction accidents are likely
to permanently change the life of the victim, as well as his or her family
members. The impact of a construction accident can leave a worker with
a traumatic brain injury, paralysis, blunt force trauma, including internal
injuries, and many other kinds of injury.
Winter Weather Construction Risks
A majority of the dangers facing construction workers during winter are,
more or less, the same dangers facing any one of us during the winter.
That said, the impact on construction workers can be much more severe
due to repeated exposure to risk and the industrial environment of a construction
site. These hazards include:
Cold Stress, described by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a group of serious cold-related illnesses and injuries (such as trench
foot, frostbite, frost nip, chilblains, and hypothermia) that occur when
cold temperatures, wetness, and/or wind create a situation where the skin
temperature is driven down and eventually the internal body temperature
follows. When this happens, the body becomes unable to warm itself, leaving
victims vulnerable to permanent tissue damage or even death. There are
around 1300 cold-related deaths each year, and many of those individuals
are in situations where they are caught off-guard in bad weather. Construction
workers may have the benefit of preparation, but their risks remain high
due to the lengthy time spent laboring in the cold.
Exertion Injuries can be as simple as overexerting your musculoskeletal system when your
body is cold, resulting in muscle strains, ligament tears, or other related
injuries; however, the
American Heart Association also warns that the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks or
strokes is amplified by heavy or sudden exertion outdoors during the winter
season. This danger is even higher for those with known cardiovascular disease.
Slips and Falls are certainly a common winter hazard for us all, but winter construction
accidents are an entirely different story. Sidewalks are icy, and the
floors just inside entryways to most building are wet. Imagine though,
if you had to take that icy walk 100 feet (or more!) in the air. Picture
yourself walking through a construction site full of obstacles, construction
materials, and heavy machinery…there are many potential disasters
that could result from a fall in the wrong place. A construction worker
can suffer a head injury, brain injury, broken bones, or worse if he or
she slips and hits his or her head on a hard object. A slip and fall while
operating machinery or while working near large machinery could result
in terrible injuries, such as limb amputation, crushing injuries leaving
internal damage, puncture wounds, or even death.
Electrocution risks are greater when there are wet conditions, and certainly winter construction
sites will see many damp days. Though there are standard best practices
to avoid serious electrocution risks during wet weather, this is still
a concern construction workers must face.
Construction Worker Protections
All workers, and certainly all construction workers, deserve to feel and
be safe whenever in the work environment. Your employer must provide key
safety information about the workplace, including copies of any standards,
rules, regulations, requirements, and results of hazard testing. In addition,
you should never feel unable to or unsafe in reporting or discussing violations.
Retaliation by an employer or other employees for speaking up is not allowed
under the law.
If you are a construction worker and you feel unsafe at ever feel unsafe
at work, you have every right to pursue answers and change to lower your
risk of injury. OSHA would be one of your primary first contacts (beyond
your own company) in this case. They may be able to help you in a couple
of ways: they can inspect your workplace or they can provide you with
training or information aimed at minimizing risk and serious injury. Workers
who speak a language other than English have a right to receive such info
or treatment in a language they understand.
In the case of a serious construction site accident, whether in winter
or another season, the injured worker (or his or her family in some cases)
will need to choose what kind of claim to pursue based on the circumstances.
workers’ compensation applies in most cases where an employee is injured at work. If someone
other than the victim’s employer is fully or partially liable for
the accident and injury, a
personal injury claim may be a good option. Compensation is often higher than in workers’
A product liability claim may be an option in situations when a piece of
construction equipment, safety gear, or some other work site tool purchased
by the company causes injury due to defect or poor design. All three kinds
of claims are available to construction site victims, regardless of their
role (carpenter, electrician, crane operator, sheet metal worker, welder,
heavy equipment operator, etc.).
There are even instances when a
wrongful death claim would be appropriate and allowed. The attorneys at Wagner Reese
will be happy to provide you with a free initial consultation to begin
the discussion of which choice will give the best odds of recouping damages
from the injury sustained. Call us today to discuss your winter construction
site accident: (888) 204-8440.