In 2020, the construction industry saw 1,008 fatalities. Falls made up 351 of these deaths, making it the leading cause of fatal injuries in the construction industry. This is not a new development. Falls have ranked as a top cause of death for decades. It is one of the many reasons that roofing is often called a separate deadly profession from construction. Despite this, employers often do not take the necessary precautions to keep workers safe.
What Are Some Common Injuries Resulting From Falls?
Death is the most severe consequence of a fall, but it is not the only likely outcome. Here are some potential injuries survivors might encounter:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Loss of limb
What Are the Most Common Causes of Falls in the Construction Industry?
Most of the factors leading to falls are fairly obvious. However, there are a few factors that might catch you by surprise.
Ladders are one of the most common types of equipment used in the construction industry. They are also one of the leading causes of fall-related injuries and deaths. Employers often fail to provide adequate training on how to use ladders safely or they neglect to inspect them regularly for defects.
Like ladders, scaffolding is another standard piece of equipment used in construction. It is also one of the leading causes of fall-related injuries and deaths. Like the ladders, employers often do not provide adequate training and supervisors might not inspect them as often as they should.
Lack of Personal Protective Equipment
One of the most surprising causes of falls in the construction industry is the lack of personal protective equipment. Many employers don’t provide workers with the proper safety gear, such as harnesses, hard hats and suitable shoes. Workers are also often not required to wear this gear while working.
Employers often don’t provide adequate training on safely performing tasks that could lead to a fall. For example, many workers might need to receive training on securing their harnesses properly or safely using ladders. This negligent approach to training often stems from a culture of treating construction workers as mere warm bodies at a site instead of skilled workers.
Falls often occur because workers need to pay more attention to their surroundings. This can be due to distractions, such as cell phones or simply because the worker is unaware of the potential hazards.
Many workers use drugs or alcohol while on the job. This can lead to impaired judgment and coordination, increasing the fall risk. According to the American Addiction Centers, 16.5% of construction workers drink heavily. That number represents twice the rate for other workers in the U.S.
What Can Employers Do To Reduce the Risk of Deadly Falls?
Some companies have chosen to treat falls and other accidents as just a part of the job in construction. They fail to recognize that all accidents are avoidable and often do not value their workers. Here are some changes injured workers and their family members can advocate for.
Provide Adequate Training
Employers should provide workers with detailed training on safely performing tasks that have high fall risks. This training should be specific to the task at hand and administrators should refresh the material regularly to keep workers engaged.
Provide Proper Equipment
Employers should ensure that workers have the proper safety gear and it should be mandatory to wear them while working. Workers who fail to follow this rule should face some repercussions for potentially endangering themselves and others.
Inspect Equipment Regularly
Employers should inspect ladders and scaffolding regularly for defects. They should also train workers to review their equipment and protective gear before using them. Employers should repair any defects immediately.
Employers should ban distractions from work sites, such as cell phones. Supervisors must lead by example and the company must have procedures to handle violations. Some workers, such as inspectors, might need to use cell phones; policies may include some exceptions for this.
Provide Substance Abuse Treatment
Employers might feel tempted to punish workers for substance use, but treatment might prove more helpful. They get to keep a good worker while creating a culture that encourages other substance users to step forward and seek help without judgment.
Create a Safety Plan
Employers should develop a comprehensive safety plan that includes fall prevention. They should appoint someone to review and update this as needed. The safety plan should also include a checklist that workers and inspectors can use.
What Can Survivors Do After Losing Someone to a Fall in the Construction Industry?
Getting the phone call that your family member has died from a fall is devastating. Moving through the grieving process and picking up the pieces can take years. Unfortunately, the legal system does not make allowances for grief. Eligible family members must move quickly to gather evidence and file a claim. Every case is different, but there are some basic steps they could follow.
Obtain a Copy of the Death Certificate
The death certificate is necessary for many reasons. It is the official record of the cause of death and can be used to file for benefits, such as life insurance. Survivors and their attorneys can also use the death certificate to open a probate case if the deceased left behind any assets.
Families will need to gather evidence to support their claims. This might include medical records, eyewitness statements and photographs of the work site. An experienced attorney can help identify what types of evidence will be most helpful in a particular case.
File a Claim
The next step is to file a claim with the appropriate agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Department of Labor. The claim should include all the evidence gathered and a description of what happened. Survivors might also need to file a claim with the employer and its insurance company.
Consult with an Attorney
It is essential to consult with an attorney early on in the process. Attorneys can help identify deadlines, gather evidence and file the necessary paperwork. An attorney can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and represent you in court if necessary.
How Can a Construction or Wrongful Death Attorney Assist?
Falling is the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Every year, hundreds of workers die and thousands more face injuries. Families of fallen workers often have many questions about their rights. Working with a construction accident attorney can alleviate some of the stress and ensure the case goes through the correct steps before the statute of limitations passes.
There are several additional ways a construction injury or wrongful death attorney can assist. They can help gather evidence, file claims and negotiate with insurance companies. An attorney can also represent you in court if necessary. If you have lost a loved one to a fall in the construction industry, it is crucial to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we have recovered more than $60 million in compensation for our clients. These cases have included unsafe construction sites, slip-and-fall accidents, workers’ compensation and wrongful death cases. Are you curious about what our law firm can do for your construction death case? Schedule a free consultation to get started.