Construction site safety
Construction workers perform many tasks on the job that expose them to serious hazards such as falling from heights, being struck by large machinery, being injured by power tools, and being exposed to asbestos or hazardous chemicals. Workplace safety regulations are intended to provide construction workers with safe working conditions and require training to recognize and avoid construction accidents. When injuries occur on the job, an injured employee is entitled to paid medical care and other benefits, as provided by Indiana’s worker’s compensation system. The worker’s compensation attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC are strong advocates for injured construction workers. Attorneys Randy Klezmer and Nathan Maudlin have been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Indianapolis and across Indiana for more than two decades. Our attorneys have developed an in-depth understanding of worker’s compensation law in Indiana. In fact, we wrote the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Law and Practice manual, a legal reference book that other attorneys rely upon for guidance. If you are a construction worker who has been injured on the job and are having trouble obtaining benefits, one of our attorneys will review your injury and discuss your legal rights during a free consultation.
Workplace rights to a safe workplace
Construction workers in Indiana have many important legal rights related to workplace safety. Workers have a legal right to a safe workplace under both federal law and Indiana law. Employers in Indiana have a legal responsibility to provide working conditions that are free of recognized serious hazards and to provide personal protective equipment and training when hazards cannot be eliminated. Employers are required to comply with all federal and state workplace safety and health standards. The standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals, substances and noise levels that workers can be exposed to in the workplace. The regulations also require the use of certain work safety practices and equipment. Employers are required to identify and correct all safety and health hazards in the workplace.
Construction sites are among the most dangerous workplaces, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. At most construction sites, it is not possible to remove all hazards or reduce harmful exposures to safe levels. In these situations, employers have responsibilities to provide a safe environment for their employees. This includes:
- providing appropriate personal protective equipment such as fall protection, goggles, face shields, earplugs, gloves, protective clothing, hard hats, respirators, and other types of personal protection
- recognizing situations in which protective equipment is needed
- supplying workers with most of their personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost
- conducting a hazards assessment at a work site to identify and manage safety hazards
- posting OSHA work safety citations and injury and illness data in a location where workers can see the information
- providing safety training in a language the workers can understand
- maintaining an updated list of hazardous chemicals that are in the workplace
- ensuring that hazardous chemicals are in properly labeled containers with appropriate warnings
- recording any serious workplace injury that required medical treatment other than first aid, or caused a worker to miss work or be reassigned to lighter duty work.
- informing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 8 hours of a fatal workplace accident and within 24 hours of any workplace accident leads to hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
- keeping accurate records of job-related injuries (required for those employers with more than 10 employees in higher hazard industries)
Additionally, under the federal Hazard Communication standard, workers have the following rights regarding working in a safe environment:
- to know what hazards exist in the workplace and how to protect themselves from injury and harmful exposures
- to take part in training and safety awareness activities to ensure their protection from job hazards
- to be paid their normal rate of pay to attend training sessions that are required by law
- to know and receive training about hazardous chemicals and substances in the workplace.
- to review records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur at their workplace
- to obtain copies of tests and monitoring done to measure hazards in the workplace
- to request an OSHA workplace inspection if they believe that a serious hazard exists or that their employer is not following workplace safety rules may (and may request that OSHA not identify the person who requested the inspection)
- to take part in an OSHA workplace safety inspection and to talk privately with an OSHA inspector (Note: OSHA’s whistleblower laws protect workers from being fired, demoted, threatened, denied benefits or retaliated against for reporting safety concerns, injuries or unsafe working conditions. An attorney also may file a complaint with OSHA on behalf of a worker.)
Indiana construction workers’ legal options after a construction accident
Employees who are accidentally injured on the job in Indiana have a right to worker’s compensation medical and wage replacement benefits, regardless of who caused the accident. In exchange for receiving worker’s compensation benefits, injured employees are generally not allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. However, injured workers may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party other than their own employer or a co-worker. A construction project frequently has a general contractor and multiple subcontractors working on the job site at the same time. One company may create hazardous condition that cause workers for another company to sustain injuries. A worker who sustains a serious injury due to the carelessness of another subcontractor on the same job site may have a legal claim against the at-fault subcontractor.
Construction workers who are injured on the job in Indiana almost always have some options to seek benefits, either through the worker’s compensation system or through a personal injury lawsuit or product liability lawsuit. In some instances, an injured worker may be entitled to receive worker’s compensation benefits and to pursue compensation through a third-party lawsuit against a potentially liable other party. Let an experienced Indianapolis worker’s compensation attorney at Klezmer Maudlin, PC review the details of your accident and discuss your legal options.
Common safety-related injuries
According to OSHA, construction workers accounted for one of every five on-the-job deaths in the private sector in 2015. Four types of common hazards account for most of the accidents and fatalities in the construction industry. They are:
Falls consistently account for the highest number of fatal accidents involving construction workers each year, according to OSHA. Many construction workers perform work high above the ground on ladders, scaffolds, raised platforms, collapsible platforms, and ledges without railings. OSHA standards require that employers provide fall protection equipment such as safety harnesses and lifelines to workers who are performing work from heights. Here are some of the areas where employers fail to provide a safe environment for their workers:
- Inadequate Safety Equipment. Contractors are required by law to provide appropriate personal protection equipment to workers at a construction site and ensure that the equipment is used properly. Providing safety equipment is part of employers’ larger legal duty to provide a safe workplace. Workers who are given inadequate equipment are more likely to be less focused on their task. If an employer provides equipment that is inadequate for the task at hand or does not fit properly, a construction worker may sustain a serious injury as a result. Many construction accidents result from employers’ failure to provide adequate safety equipment.
- Faulty Safety Equipment. Serious injuries and deaths can occur on construction sites if safety equipment is not carefully inspected before use to make sure the equipment is in good working order and not worn or frayed and at risk of failure.
- Unsafe Workplace. An unsafe work site increases the risk that a construction worker will sustain an injury on the job. Construction sites are constantly in flux as old buildings are demolished, work sites are excavated and new buildings are constructed. Among the hazards at construction sites and job sites are unsecured scaffolds, trench collapses, electric shock from overhead and buried power lines, falling objects, toxic substances, uncovered openings and lack of personal protective equipment.
- Lack of Safety Training. Construction workers can be killed or seriously injured if employers neglect to provide safety training. Proper safety training helps workers recognize dangerous situations and chemical hazards, understand when to use personal protection gear and avoid life-threatening accidents. Poorly trained or untrained workers present a risk to themselves and to other workers on a job site. When construction accidents occur, lack of proper training is a common issue identified by workplace safety inspectors. Lack of safety for fall protection is one of the top ten most commonly cited violations of OSHA standards. If a worker employed by another subcontractor on site fails to follow proper safety protocols and causes your injury, you may have a personal injury claim against the other subcontractor in addition to drawing worker’s compensation benefits.
- Defective Equipment. Construction workers depend on many types of machinery, equipment and tools to perform their jobs. If a defect in a tool’s design or manufacture caused a construction injury, the manufacturer of the defective equipment may be held liable through a product liability lawsuit. While employers are protected from lawsuits by injured employees, the injured worker may have a right to file a product liability lawsuit against the maker of a defectively designed or manufactured tool or piece of equipment. At Klezmer Maudlin, PC, our attorneys have the experience to identify whether you have a legal claim such as a defective product claim against someone other than your employer.
Do you have a right to worker’s compensation after a construction accident?
The State of Indiana requires businesses to provide worker’s compensation benefits to employees who are hurt on the job or develop a work-related illness. Independent contractors are not employees and are not covered by worker’s compensation. The construction industry employs many independent contractors and has special rules that apply to independent contractors who are injured while working on construction projects. After any construction accident, the determination of who is an independent contractor and which injured workers are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits requires a complex analysis. If you have been injured, you should have a dedicated worker’s compensation attorney review the specific terms and conditions of your employment and evaluate your eligibility for worker’s compensation benefits and other options for obtaining compensation to help you recover and provide for your loved ones. You need a knowledgeable construction accident lawyer who will advocate for your interests. If you have been injured on a construction job and then denied worker’s compensation medical benefits in Indiana, you should talk to an attorney about your legal rights. At Klezmer Maudlin, PC, we have successfully assisted many construction workers who faced similar situations. If a company has denied your right to workers’ compensation benefits, you should not automatically take “No” as the final answer. The attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC are committed to assisting injured construction workers obtain their rightful benefits. We offer a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your injury.