That is probably the most frequently asked question we hear from new Workers' Compensation clients when we first meet with them in our office. It is a fair and reasonable inquiry. Probably, 95 times out of 100, the most honest and intelligent answer we can give at that time is, "I don't know, yet."
Most people might not realize it, but today is actually the 7th annual Construction Safety Day, an initiative sponsored by the Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board in Washington state.
While the day is naturally focused on raising awareness and improving construction site safety in Washington state, the significance of its message is nevertheless readily applicable to the entire U.S. In fact, it has even served as an impetus for out-of-state parties to explore the troubling circumstances behind most construction accidents.
Indeed, the construction software firm Viewpoint recently compiled a report in honor of Construction Safety Day using data from both OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report reaches some very eye-opening conclusions concerning construction accident injuries, general safety problems and, most significantly, construction site fatalities.
A very interesting workers' compensation case recently came to a close in the state of Nebraska concerning whether a clothing company and its work comp insurer were obligated to cover the costs of post-traumatic stress disorder and drug treatment for an employee shot multiple times while on the job.
Back in June 2011, two men robbed a Gen-X Clothing store in Lincoln, threatening the store manager not to report the crime to the police. The 37-year-old manager, however proceeded to do just that and the two robbers were arrested.
Shockingly, a brother of one of the robbery suspects showed up at the store two weeks later and shot the manager 12 times to prevent him from testifying. Amazingly, he survived and testified at trial, making sure that all three men were sent to prison for a long time.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Gen-X Clothing and its work comp insurer, Farmer's Truck Insurance Exchange, paid the manager's medical bills and temporary disability benefits while he recovered from his physical injuries.
There are perhaps no more dangerous occupations within the construction industry than those associated with road construction. On a daily basis, these men and women have to not only worry about traditional worksite hazards (falling objects, dangerous machinery, deep trenches, etc.), but also the traffic zooming by them.
Making matters worse, many of these drivers are distracted, meaning their focus is not on the road ahead but rather on everything from their phones and their dashboard navigation systems to their children and their breakfast.
If you don't believe how dangerous road construction work can be, consider some of the following statistics:
- Illinois sees an average of 4,800 work zone motor vehicle accidents every year.
- There were over 1,000 injuries in work zone motor vehicle accidents in 2013.
- There were 25 fatal work zone motor vehicle accidents resulting in 28 deaths in 2013, including one Illinois Department of Transportation worker.
Anyone whose job requires them to work in loud conditions knows from firsthand experience just how challenging it can sometimes be to get work done or even communicate with fellow workers. However, a recently released study shows that these loud conditions may actually be putting you at risk of a serious work injury.
Researchers from the National Public Health Institute of Quebec examined the medical records of 46,550 male employees working over a twenty-year timeframe. Here, they determined that 1,670 of these employees had been hospitalized at some point for a work-related injury within five years of submitting to a hearing test.
From there, the researchers proceeded to compare the level of hearing loss reported in these hearing tests with both the number of work injuries and the workplace exposure to loud noise.
Somewhat shockingly, they determined that the risk of hospitalization for a work-related injury increased by one percent for every decibel of hearing loss recorded.
Of the seemingly innumerable dangers facing workers on the typical construction site, none perhaps looms any larger than falls from heights. Indeed, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined that falls are currently the leading cause of fatal construction accidents in the U.S., accounting for over a third of all fatalities.
In recognition of just how much of a problem fatal falls are becoming, OSHA, together with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, launched an ongoing fall-prevention campaign back in 2012.
Here, the campaign revolves around a comprehensive website, where employers can secure vital information concerning everything from how to prevent falls to how to outfit workers with the right kind of fall-protection equipment.
The efforts of these two federal agencies to help combat the number of fatal falls at construction sites consists of more than just this campaign, however, as OSHA recently announced that it is holding a national event designed to raise awareness about this import safety issue.
Though the snow and cold this winter has brought has been difficult for many residents of the state of Illinois, for those who enjoy participating in winter sports the snow has been a great thing. To accommodate these people many facilities, such as snowboarding parks have hired workers. Unfortunately one teen who works at a Chicago area park was recently injured when his arm became caught in a conveyor lift. The worker is 17-years-old.
Falling objects at construction sites can cause a considerable amount of harm to workers. A construction accident involving a falling object recently happened in another state, South Dakota.
The accident occurred at the site of a store expansion project. One of the things the project involves is somewhat unusual for a store expansion project, the building of a Ferris wheel.
Even though the temperature is still unseasonably cold and snow is still piled high throughout the streets of Chicago, it's important to remember that spring is right around the corner. While this may seem hard to believe given our bitterly cold winter, consider that we are actually in the midst of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
As part of this annual event, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have joined forces to remind people about the importance of taking the necessary steps to prepare for the severe weather season.
While it can be relatively easy to dismiss this event due to our current cold weather, consider that 2013 saw seven weather and climate events that caused over $1 billion in damages and took the lives of over 100 people. Furthermore, at least five of these events were severe weather and tornado events, something we are accustomed to seeing here in Illinois once the weather gets warmer.
A brief examination of readily available statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveals that fatal construction accidents continue to be a major issue here in the United States. To illustrate, the agency determined that 775 people lost their lives in construction accidents in 2012 alone.
While the circumstances behind every fatal construction accident naturally vary, OSHA has at least been able to identify four of the more common causes of these tragedies. These include falls, electrocution, caught-in/between accidents and struck-by accidents.
Interestingly, safety experts are indicating that some of the accident causes -- particularly struck-by accidents -- could likely be largely eliminated if those managing construction jobsites took a brighter approach to safety.