Articles Posted in Industrial Accidents

The construction industry carries a significant risk of serious accidents in the workplace. Many of these workplace accidents that occur result from the use of heavy machinery. The following article will discuss some of the most common causes of workplace machinery accidents and will also provide some practical ways to prevent these types of accidents in the workplace.

What are some of the most common causes of workplace machinery accidents?

According to OSHA, the following are the most common causes of workplace accidents involving machinery:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 1,061 work-related deaths in the construction industry in 2019. This is the highest number of deaths among construction workers since 2007. The following article will discuss some causes of construction accidents as well as some practical steps for employers to avoid these accidents at the workplace.

What are Some Common Causes of Construction Accidents?

There are many factors which can contribute to construction accidents in the workplace, but some major factors include:

Nobody goes into the construction industry thinking it is going to be a walk in the park. Everybody who ever worked construction knew before their first day on the job that construction work is dirty, difficult, and above all, dangerous. Injuries are commonplace, and fatal injuries on the construction site happen far more often than in any other kind of workplace. Construction work sites are loaded with hazards most employees in other occupations will never see, and many of those hazards are potentially fatal.

No Industry Compares to Construction for Deaths, Injuries

In 2019, federal statistics indicate that on-the-job deaths of construction workers accounted for 20% of all workplace fatalities, a trend that has held for decades even though the construction industry accounts for only 4% of total employment in the United States. In addition to fatalities, more than 70,000 construction injuries are reported each year, with probably that many more going unreported. The injury rate for construction workers was 9.7 per 100,000 employees in 2019, nearly triple the rate of 3.5 per 100,000 employees for all other private sector employment. The non-fatal injury rate for construction workers is 71% higher than any other industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a world of contradictions in the workplace. People in some occupations have found themselves working exclusively from home for nearly the last year. Others have found themselves unemployed, while still others have found themselves working at a frenzied pace. There is increased pressure on the supply chain as well as the means of delivery, meaning that employees at production facilities for food and other essential supplies, distribution warehouses, and retail outlets often have had to increase their work pace and hours to keep up with demand despite many fellow employees being out sick with COVID-19. Further, first responders, emergency workers, and many health care workers also have faced long hours at work as they strive to provide many of the services people rely upon, pandemic or not. These efforts have often been complicated by many coworkers being sidelined by COVID-19, leaving remaining employees to pick up the slack with longer shifts.

Risks of Fatigue for Employee Safety are Well-Documented

For quite some time, federal health officials have known that employee fatigue is a significant threat to workplace safety. When employees have to work long shifts, extra shifts, overtime, and evening or overnight shifts, they become fatigued. Often the extra work hours are at times that disrupt normal sleep patterns, which in addition to extra work hours just contributes to employee fatigue. Even employees working 40 hours are at heightened risk of fatigue when working longer shifts, evening or overnight shifts, rotating shifts, or irregular shifts. These irregular hours can result in physical and mental stress for employees, as does working extra hours. This all can contribute to workplace fatigue, making employees less alert and impairing decision-making, concentration, and memory.

Industrial accidents are often the result of a chain of events. There are usually multiple parties whose negligence or intentional failures led to an innocent worker’s injury. Of course, when the victim files a lawsuit, these parties are quick to try and deflect blame to one another.

Hill v. Konecranes, Inc.

An ongoing federal lawsuit in Savannah, Hill v. Konecranes, Inc., provides an apt illustration of this principle. This tragic case involves the 2015 death of a crane operator. The victim worked for International Paper Company (IP) in Augusta, where he used a gantry crane to move timber. Konecranes, Inc., was the company responsible for manufacturing and installing the crane. IP also retained Konecranes to perform regular inspections of the gantry crane.

As you probably know, if you are injured on the job, your employer must pay you certain medical and wage replacement benefits under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law. Indeed, workers’ compensation provides what is considered an “exclusive remedy” in these situations. That is to say, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer so long as it complies with the workers’ compensation law.

The exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation does not apply to potential claims against third parties. For example, if you are driving a company-owned truck on a delivery and get hit by a drunk driver, workers’ compensation does not prevent you from suing that driver. Of course, if you do successfully pursue a personal injury claim against the drunk driver, then your employer may seek to recoup some of the workers’ compensation benefits previously paid to you.

Sprowson v. Villalobos

All Georgia employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who are injured in the course of their employment. For example, if you are in a car accident while driving a company-owned vehicle to make a sales call, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

What happens when your employer’s insurance company is insolvent, i.e., it cannot pay out your claim? In that case, the Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool takes over. This is a nonprofit entity that effectively steps into the shoes of the insolvent insurer and pays any outstanding workers’ compensation claims.

Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Dubose

In Georgia, workers’ compensation is intended to provide employees with an “exclusive remedy” against their employers for job-related accidents. This means that the employer is required to pay certain benefits, regardless of fault. In exchange, the employee has no legal right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The exclusive remedy rule does not, however, apply to third parties whose negligence may have contributed to the accident.

Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Of course, there are scenarios in which a third party may try and claim protection under the workers’ compensation law as “statutory employers.” Here is a recent example of such an attempt. In this case, Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc., the plaintiff worked as an electrician. The defendant hired an electrical contractor to assist in some renovation work on one of its facilities. The plaintif, in turn, worked for the contractor.

trainderailment.jpgIn an interesting decision out of the 6th Circuit, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judgment for CSX Transportation Inc. last week in a case brought by a group of citizens seeking medical monitoring for the small Ohio town of Painesville, after a train derailment in 2007. When the train derailed it was carrying substances that included glycerin, alcohol, ethanol, and butane. All of theses substances are known to be dangerous when inhaled in large quantities, and butane is an extremely volatile substance, and inhaling it can cause, narcosis, asphyxia, and cardiac arrhythmia. After the accident more than 500 families were evacuated in the half-mile area surrounding the site. In addition, some of the 3000 gallons of Ethanol that was spilled leaked into a nearby creek. CSX admitted in court filings that improper track maintenance, including using the wrong size rail as part of a repair, caused the crash.

The residents who brought the suit against CSX were attempting to persuade the court to force CSX to pay for the expense of medically monitoring the area for an extended period of time to assess any risk the spill might be causing to the residents near the site of the derailment. The appeals court said the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence creating a genuine issue. Instead, the court says, that they relied on a conclusory statement by a doctor that, “a reasonable physician would prescribe for the Plaintiff and the putative class a monitoring regime.”

Daniel Bechenel Jr., a lead lawyer in the case, called the derailment an example of railroads putting people in danger and imminent risk by cutting safety precautions and repair standards. Though this may be true, the Appeals Court felt that the overall risk was too small to force CSX to pay for the medical monitoring.

An oil platform exploded and burned off the Louisiana coast Thursday. Last year a story like this would not have made national news, however, following on the heels of the BP Deepwater Horizion disaster people are taking notice. Above is a video of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explaining the details of the newest gulf coast oil explosion. Thankfully, this incident had a substantially different outcome than the BP Gulf Coast disaster. All the rig workers escaped alive and there is no new oil spill.

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