Few workers enter into the construction industry expecting their job to be safe or easy. It should never be assumed, however, that danger is guaranteed. Oftentimes faulty or defective equipment is revealed as the cause of a construction accident. According to New Jersey construction accident lawyers, many of these defects can be addressed and remedied before an accident occurs with proper management, training and oversight.
Construction Death Statistics
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) show that more than two-thirds of all construction workers involved in scaffolding accidents are injured when planking or other supports give way. Sometimes, scaffold collapses are attributed to a design defect in the scaffolding itself.
In yet other instances, however, the scaffolding has not been correctly assembled. Under both scenarios, supervisors and managers have a duty to ensure that scaffolding at their construction site is fully functional and safe. Failure to do so can give rise to a negligence claim against not only an employer, but also the scaffold manufacturer.
Similarly, heavy machinery can be particularly dangerous in the event of a defect, particularly for machine operators. A construction worker was recently pinned to death in New York while checking on a mechanical malfunction in a boom crane, and earlier this year an excavator burst into flames when its turbocharger exploded. In the latter incident, the excavator operator was able to exit his machine in time.
Fatalities in the construction industry – after years of decline – have begun to inch upward according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2014, 885 full-time equivalent (FTE) construction and extraction workers died on the job, a five percent increase over 2013. The BLS maintains that construction and extraction worker fatalities in 2014 have not reached such levels since 2008. Construction trades workers suffered three percent more deaths in 2014 than in 2013, with electricians faring the worst of all. According to the BLS, 78 electricians died in 2014 on construction sites, 14 more than died in 2013.
Grounds For Liability
When a construction accident occurs, liability can be assessed in any number of ways. Site managers can be held legally responsible if they fail to properly train construction workers on the proper use of heavy equipment and tools. Additionally, site managers are required to continuously monitor and maintain the equipment and tools which will be used at a construction site. Inspections must take place regularly to remain compliant and ensure worker safety.
Manufacturers, meanwhile, can be held responsible not only for producing a defective product but also for failing to provide adequate warnings to users about potential danger. Moreover, some inherently dangerous tools and equipment common in the construction industry – such as nail guns – must come equipped with built-in safety mechanisms to prevent injury. Whether a product features a design flaw or a manufacturing defect, the responsibility is on the manufacture to ensure that construction workers receive a safe, fully-functional product. Failure to do so can lead to a claim for negligence or third-party liability in the event of a construction accident.