Articles Tagged with workplace accidents

If you were recently injured on the job, you may have started the process of filing for workers compensation benefits. The following article will provide some helpful information you should know about workers’ compensation in Georgia.

Important Information Regarding Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation

  • You have 30 days to report the accident to your employer. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80, an employee must report an injury-causing work accident to his employer within 30 days after the date the accident occurred.

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:

Power tools are a common presence in American homes and workplaces. Millions of people have power tools at home, ranging from the most basic, such as drills or power screwdrivers, all the way up to fully equipped home woodshops or metal shops. Cordless or corded, power tools are everywhere, and this is particularly true in many American workplaces. Many occupations, including most manufacturing jobs, construction, and trades, including electrical work and plumbing, rely heavily upon power tools. They make completing many jobs safer, faster, and more efficient. Think about trying to build a house without even so much as a power saw. Putting so much power in such a small package – many power tools are hand-held – is, unfortunately, often a dangerous proposition, even for professional users. Not surprisingly, then, workplace accidents involving power tools are fairly common events.

Injuries From Power Tool Accidents Can be Serious

Many people use power tools at home, completely unrelated to on-the-job use of power tools. Such at-home use, rightly or wrongly, can give employees a false sense of knowledge and security regarding use of power tools on the job. The problem, of course, is that the types and power of tools used on the job far exceed what most home power tool users have experienced. When employees believe they know “enough” about operating power tools, particularly hand-held power tools, they may be able to avoid training or pay little attention during training. 

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.

People who work around heavy machinery in certain industries – like printing presses, conveyors, food presses, milling machines, food slicers, meat grinders, and other similar hazardous machines – are at high risk of workplace amputations. Those machines do not present the only workplace risk of amputations, either. Construction work is among the most dangerous jobs in the country, and it, too, carries the risk of on-the-job amputations. Federal government reports have referred to workplace amputations as “widespread.” They can occur not just during machinery operation, but also during set-up, cleaning, lubricating, adjusting, clearing jams, and maintenance.

While not all amputations are created equal – losing a joint on your pinkie finger is an amputation, just as is losing an arm or a leg – all amputations are traumatic injuries. Many amputations are life-altering. The federal government reports about two dozen fatal amputations and thousands of non-fatal workplace amputations every year. Federal statistics cite defective machinery and worker negligence as some of the main causes of workplace amputation injuries. Further, poorly or improperly maintained machinery, or even improperly manufactured machinery, can result in serious injuries to employees, including amputations. Inadequate training or supervision also increase the likelihood of severe accidental injuries. All of these elements – poor maintenance, insufficient training, and improper manufacturing of equipment, can factor into the amount an employee suffering an on-the-job amputation will receive in damages for a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Comp Damages for Workplace Amputations Vary

While some jobs appear to be extremely hazardous and others appear to be pretty safe, workplace injuries happen all the time, regardless of how dangerous the work “appears” to be. Loggers and professional fishermen work in the most dangerous jobs, but farmers, delivery drivers, garbage collectors, and septic tank workers also hold jobs that rank in the top 20 most dangerous. While those jobs are ranked by frequency of fatalities – virtually all jobs hold the potential for workplace injuries. The vast majority of workplace injuries are not fatal, and while many arise from the inherently dangerous nature of the particular job, others are far more subtle but no less debilitating.

Common Work Injuries Might Not be What You Expect

Workplace injuries happen in many different ways. Some are sudden and violent, as you might expect. Others, though, are caused by factors you might not see coming. Among the leading causes of on-the-job injuries are:

Workers’ compensation requires Georgia employers to pay medical and wage replacement benefits to employees injured “in the course of” employment. This includes not only injuries that occur while actively working, but also during times “incidental” to a job, such as entering or exiting the employer’s premises. However, employers are not liable for injuries that occur when an employee is engaged in an “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

In 2018, we discussed a decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation, where an employee was injured during a scheduled lunch break. To briefly recap, the employee was a claims adjuster at State Farm. The employer required her to take an unpaid 45-minute lunch break each day. On the day in question, the employee clocked out for lunch, went to the break room to prepare some food, and slipped and fell as she exited the room.

When it comes to personal injury claims, you should never make assumptions. For instance, even if you believe an accident was the result of a faulty piece of equipment, you still need to prove it in court. Do not assume the judge (or jury) will just take your word for it that “it must have been broken.”

Lakeshore Contracting, LLC v. Lopez-Hernandez

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Lakeshore Contracting, LLC v. Lopez-Hernandez, offers a useful illustration. This case involves an accident that occurred at a construction site. The defendant is a general contractor. In 2016, a customer hired the defendant to remodel a retail store. The defendant hired two subcontractors to perform the actual remodeling work. One of the subcontractors then hired the plaintiff to assist him.

You probably know that if you are injured on the job, workers’ compensation covers your employer’s liability for the accident. Workers’ compensation does not apply to third-party liability, however. In other words, if your work-related accident was caused by someone other than your employer (or someone working for your employer), you can still file a separate personal injury lawsuit against that party.

Newcomb v. Spring Creek Cooler, Inc.

Of course, unlike “no-fault” workers’ compensation benefits, you still have to prove that the third party did something wrong. The third party may turn around and argue you were either at-fault for the accident, or you should have been aware of the dangerous condition that caused your injuries.

Contact Information