Working on a construction site places you in more danger than most other occupations simply because of the nature of the work being performed. In any given construction zone, there is likely to be extremely heavy equipment, tall structures, hazardous chemicals, and complex electrical systems. All of these hazards become all the more concerning when negligence or a general lack of safety protocols is introduced.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is a government entity under the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA is tasked with reviewing jobsites across the country to ensure employers are complying with required safety measures and regulations. It is also the same organization that collects data about and reports on worksite accidents and injuries. Each year, OSHA focuses on construction accidents and compiles its findings into what they call the OSHA Fatal Four.
What is the OSHA Fatal Four?
Year after year, four construction site hazards contribute to an inordinate amount of fatal construction accidents. If accidents that fall into the Fatal Four category could be prevented, then OSHA estimates nearly 600 lives would be saved each year.
The OSHA Fatal Four is comprised of:
- Falls: 33.5% of all fatal construction accidents in 2018 were caused by a worker falling from a dangerous height. To prevent falls, OSHA requirements include wearing harnesses when ascending to certain heights, proper use and maintenance of ladders, cranes, and scaffolding, and the installment of perimeter protection.
- Struck by object accidents: 11.1% of fatal construction accidents in 2018 were caused by a worker being struck by a falling object, like a loose bit of debris or tool. Some deaths in this category also include workers being struck by moving objects, like a heavy-duty vehicle backing up into someone. To prevent struck by object accidents, OSHA requires workers to wear high-visibility gear, hardhats in most construction areas, and to stay away from moving vehicles and equipment whenever possible.
- Electrocutions: 8.5% of construction site deaths reported in 2018 were caused by electrocution. Some cases included a worker being fatally electrocuted while working on electrical systems, such as when installing a new circuit breaker. Other cases involved the death of a worker who inadvertently touched a live wire or powerline while moving through the jobsite. OSHA recommends reviewing all electrical systems with jobsite foremen to know unsafe zones, leaving all electrical work to contracted electricians, and only using electrical tools that are grounded or double insulated.
- Caught-in or -between accidents: Lastly, 5.5% of fatal construction site accidents reported in 2018 occurred in a caught-in or caught-between accident. Work inside trenches proved to be the most common thread among these types of fatal accidents. Without proper protective systems, trenches can collapse without warning, trapping any workers in them. There are also incidents in which tools, equipment, or vehicles are moved into a trench without checking first to see if workers are clear. All jobsites with trenches should use OSHA-required barriers, benching, sloping, and bracing systems to help prevent caught-in/between accidents.
Additionally, an unknown number of nonfatal accidents are also attributed to the OSHA Fatal Four each year. This information is not as readily available as statistics regarding fatal construction accidents, but the number is assumed to be larger. The line of thinking is similar to any sort of accident, in which dangerous circumstances are more likely to end with a severe injury than a fatality.
Can Construction Worker Families Sue for Compensation?
When an OSHA Fatal Four accident occurs, the worker’s surviving family members are left with a painful and difficult situation. They may want to bring a lawsuit against the construction firm or parent company that contracted or employed their loved one who passed away. However, workers’ compensation laws could cloud that legal process by blocking a liability claim in exchange for guaranteed death benefits.
Wrongful death claims following a fatal or nonfatal construction accident are certainly possible, though. There are always situations in which the negligence that contributed to the accident is so egregious, the benefits provided through workers’ comp simply do not do the situation or the victim’s family justice. There is also the chance that workers’ compensation coverage does not apply, opening the situation to a claim. If you are not sure if you should be filing a lawsuit after losing a loved one to a construction accident, you should reach out to a construction accident attorney in your area for counsel.
Pratt Clay, LLC handles construction accident claims and wrongful death claims in Atlanta and the surrounding metropolitan area. Dial 404-566-9460 if you require our legal assistance for a claim in Georgia.