Construction work is inherently dangerous. Workers in this industry are at a high risk of work-related injuries. In Virginia, construction workers account for a significant portion of work-related injuries and fatalities each year. Construction workers are at a high risk of on-the-job related injuries such as falls, struck-by accidents, equipment or machinery related accidents, vehicle accidents, electrocution, chemical exposure related injuries, and heat related illness.
When it comes to work-related injures and fatalities in the construction industry, falls are the number one culprit. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), falls were the leading cause of death in construction in 2020. Often working at great heights, construction workers have a propensity to experience injury-resulting falls while on the job. Falls from working at heights (especially six feet or greater) on ladders, scaffolding, or roofs, often result in injuries such as broken bones, head trauma, and back and spinal cord related injuries. Construction workers on projects of height should be equipped with proper fall-protection gear from their employer. Proper fall-protection equipment include, harnesses, guardrails, and safety nets. Construction workers on height projects should also be properly trained by their employers on best practices to prevent falls.
Struck-by accidents occur when construction workers are hit by objects such as tools, equipment, or building materials. These accidents can result in serious injuries such as brain and head injuries, fractures, lacerations, and even internal organ damage. Safety protective gear, such as hard hats, safety glasses, steel toe boots, and specialty gloves should be required by the employer to mitigate struck-by related on-the-job injuries for construction workers.
Equipment or Machinery Related Injuries
The heavy machinery and dangerous tools construction workers use as part of their job can result in on the job cuts, broken bones, eye injury or vision damage, or other serious injuries. Construction workers should always be properly trained on how to use specialized machinery and equipment before starting on the job. Employers should require proper protective gear when handling dangerous equipment or machinery such as safety goggles, steel toe boots, gloves, and hard hats.
Across the state of Virginia road construction work is on-going. While motorists should drive more cautiously and at reduced speeds in a roadwork construction zone, accidents do happen. Construction roadwork is prone to particularly dangerous accidents from on-coming traffic and heavy vehicle equipment related-injuries. Whether it is expanding lanes on highways or repaving residential streets, roadwork construction workers are at risk of being hit by vehicles driving in the construction zone or by moving equipment being used on the job. Vehicle-related accidents construction workers experience are often very severe or even life threatening.
Construction workers are at a high risk of electrocution when they are working near power lines or with electrical equipment on their project. Workers may become electrocuted if they mistakenly hit power lines with their equipment or construction machinery. Electrocution can cause very serious injuries such as burns, heart damage, and even death. It is critical that employers properly train construction workers working around power lines or with electrical equipment to prevent electrocution. Construction workers should be trained on how to avoid electrical hazards and how to ensure electrical equipment is properly grounded to prevent work-related electrocution injuries.
Chemical Exposure Related Injuries
Some construction workers are exposed to hazardous chemical materials or substances which can cause work-related respiratory problems or other health conditions. OSHA has worked to identify these hazardous chemicals and other substances that cause long-term health issues and has outlined standards in how to safely work around these chemicals and substances. Crystalline silica (a mineral found in the earth’s crust and often in materials like sand, stone, concrete, and mortar) and asbestos (naturally occurring minerals resistant to heat and corrosion found in materials such as pipe insulation, floor tiles, and building materials) are two hazardous substances construction workers may interact with. Construction workers who are exposed to or inhale these substances are at risk of lung issues, cancers, and COPD. OSHA has developed protocols and procedures to protect workers from harm in working with these dangerous chemicals and substances.
A bulk of construction work is done outside. Being exposed to the elements can cause health issues, especially in the severe heat of the summer months. These heat-related illnesses occur when the body in unable to regulate its temperature which can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. These heat-related illnesses can advance to life-threatening conditions if left untreated.
The unfortunate fact is construction workers across the state of Virginia are faced with a unique set of risks and hazards. Workers in the construction industry are at risk of injury from falls, struck-by accidents, equipment and machinery accidents, vehicular accidents, electrocution, chemical exposure, and heat-related illness. It is critical for employers to implement safety protocols and provide workers with the proper safety equipment in efforts to prevent these injuries from happening.
We hope that you never experience a work-related injury. But if you or a loved one ever does, know that HammondTownsend is THE Virginia Workers’ Compensation legal team ready to work hard for you to gain the benefits you deserve!