One of the more risky occupations is that of a construction worker.
This could include pipe fitters, plumbers, electricians, hvac mechanics, carpenters, roofers, painters, you name it. Prior to practicing law I was employed as a commercial refrigeration pipe fitter for the better part of a decade. Like most in the construction industry I was constantly getting hurt, albeit minor injuries mostly. Anyone entering the job site would sense the inherent dangers all around. I say sense because you can hear the screaming circular saws, and hammer drills, smell the burning torch flames and busted concrete, see the 20 ft extension ladders and extended scissor lifts, and hear the angry foreman rushing his workers.
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Why do so many accidents occur within the construction industry
Day in and day out construction workers are exposed to the elements and regularly injured. Their days consist of fully physical work for at least 8 hours a day. Carrying heavy tools and materials, lifting constantly, and placing themselves in awkward positions so they can secure that last bolt. The brutal occupation almost demands the eventual injury for each worker and unfortunately the occasional devastating work injury.
The reasons for injury’s are many but there are a number of explanation that I can offer from personal experience in commercial construction as well as representing clients in their workers compensation cases.
As stated, the job is inherently dangerous requiring the use of power tools. For many workers, such as carpenters/ stud hangers, the use of the tools are very repetitive. What this means for many is they become to comfortable and let their guard down resulting in injury. Also, using a chop saw to cut studs a hundred times a day will expose the worker to the risk 100 times a day. As a beginning pipe fitter I was very concerned that the oxy/acetalene rig would burn my hands or arms. I was slow and careful. As my experience increased my caution decreased. Productivity increased, quality increased, burn rate increased.
Much construction work is done in elevation. This requires the use of ladders, scissor lifts, and pettit booms. On a regular occasion some construction worker on the site trips and falls to the ground. For the most part these falls are harmless. When the work requires the employee to climb an extension ladder, or use a scissor lift falls become more serious. Not only does the risk of injury on the job increase, but often necessary increase in caution is not taken.
Productivity is chosen over safety all the time
Imagine being 25 feet in the air on a scissor lift. You are just two inches from reaching the bolt that needs to be tightened but just can’t get to it. The choices: 1. lower the scissor lift 25 feet down just to move it forward a couple inches and then have to lift it 25 feet again, 2. keep the scissor lift all the way elevated and drive it forward, 3. climb the railing of the scissor lift and hang one leg over the edge so to have the extra inch or two to stretch. In the construction industry all too often workers make scenario 3. like decisions. With this decisions comes the increase in work place injuries all for increased productivity.
Any construction site has workers of various ages from 18 to 65 plus. For many workers this is the only field they know and have been in construction their whole lives. For those that are older, the risk of injury is increased. They do not have the bone strength, muscle mass, or ligament strength they had when first starting in the occupation. The older employees have to push themselves harder to keep up with the younger employees, and for the most part do. But sometimes these workers push to hard and end up paying for it. Whether it be a shoulder sprain or a herniated disc what they once could do they now struggle with.
Some of the more common accidents experienced
While I was working construction- brain damage after falling 14 feet off a walk in cooler, 3rd degree burns on the hand after mis-handling a torch, herniated disc after lifting a cement oxygen bottle, carpal tunnel from using pipe cutters, fractured fingers after a storage container was dropped on it, injured mid back from carrying pipe bundles, lung damage after breathing in toxic fumes.
Working as a Maryland Workers Compensation Attorney- fractured vertebrae after falling from a ladder, torn rotator cuff from ratchet strapping a load on a truck, brain damage after falling through two story residential build, torn acl from kneeling down on a tool, fractured foot after drywall stack fell over, herniated spinal disc after picking up cast iron pipe, multiple spinal fractures after a 40 foot fall from a roof, torn shoulder ligament when carrying a door frame, facial mutilation from concrete saw, broken leg when hit by a forklift. Amputated toes from frost bite.
Here are some more injuries for which I have represented clients.
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