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As construction resumes, worker safety remains a concern

builder worker installing concrete slab

Summer is quickly approaching. Historically, many construction projects begin or resume during this time of the year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in the construction industry experience a boom in the summer. During these months, construction employees are often required to work overtime. As any worker compensation lawyer in Algonquin would explain, higher overtime hours may result in fatigued workers and increased accidents. The potential for more jobsite injuries and fatalities makes summer a particularly dangerous time for Illinois construction workers.

Common dangers for construction workers

One of the primary reasons injuries and fatalities increase during summer is that construction is a dangerous profession. The higher workloads that accompany the warmer months exacerbate the risks that already exist in the industry.

Construction worksites are often hazardous areas, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Heavy equipment, unstable structures, asbestos exposure and the installation of electrical wires are all common for ongoing construction projects. As such, the employees who must work in these locations are at risk of suffering multiple injury types. These may include falls, electrocutions and long-term illnesses. However, these injuries are preventable. OSHA explains that when employers establish and adhere to safety protocols, the chances that workers will be hurt drop significantly.

A particular impact on young workers

Along with increased workloads, summer also creates opportunities for young seasonal employees. Many students, trying to earn some money during their school vacations, will seek construction work during these months. While these summer jobs may be lucrative to these young students, this type of work is also quite dangerous. According to the BLS, summer employment in the construction industry results in a high number of injuries and fatalities for workers aged 16-20. The federal agency notes that between 2003 and 2009, approximately 30 percent of fatalities involving young summer workers occurred in construction and extraction jobs. Any worker compensation lawyer in Algonquin would attest that these tragic deaths may be preventable when employers invest in safety equipment and training.

Falls: The top reason for construction accidents

According to OSHA, the top cause of construction deaths is falling. The agency notes that in 2013, nearly 300 out of 828 construction worker deaths were the result of falling. In an effort to stop these fatal accidents, OSHA has initiated a national outreach campaign on the dangers of falling accidents. The agency recommends a three-step system for preventing falls:

  • Plan ahead to ensure the job is completed safely

  • Provide safe equipment

  • Ensure that all workers are trained on safe equipment usage

OSHA explains that the primary responsibility for these steps lies with the employer. Planning for a job is a managerial task. It involves an understanding of what type of labor and equipment will be needed to safely complete a project. Providing safe equipment requires an investment on the part of the employer. While these costs may be high, purchasing the right equipment is a vital step in ensuring the safety of workers. Likewise, OSHA encourages construction companies to invest the time and resources necessary to properly train workers on the safe use of equipment.

The hazards of confined spaces  

OSHA notes that confined spaces also pose high hazards to construction workers. Confined spaces are defined as areas which are difficult to exit and are not intended for continuous occupancy. Manholes, tanks and crawl spaces are common examples of confined spaces in which construction employees may need to work. OSHA estimates that, on an annual basis, the construction industry suffers over 800 injuries and 6 deaths due to working in confined spaces.

These areas are dangerous for a number of reasons. Should an emergency occur, it may not be possible or safe for workers to exit quickly. In addition, confined spaces may subject workers to toxic substances, such as noxious gases produced by paint or building materials. These spaces may also increase workers’ risks of asphyxiation or electrocution.

A recent OSHA rule deals specifically with the dangers of confined spaces in the construction industry. The standard becomes effective in August 2015 and aims to provide additional protection for construction workers. The new rule includes training protocols, communication requirements and continuous worksite evaluations.

According to OSHA estimates, the new rule will prevent 780 injuries and 5.2 deaths per year. This is a 96 percent improvement on the current rates of injury and death related to confined spaces. In addition to preventing injuries and saving lives, the rule is also expected to produce savings. The agency estimates that reducing confined-space accidents will result in $93.6 million in gross savings every year.

Construction accidents and fatalities in Illinois

According to the BLS, Illinois reported 155,600 cases of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2013. Six thousand of these cases involved construction workers. In other words, about 1 out of 25 of Illinois’ work-related injuries is attributable to construction work. The figures for work-related fatalities are even more staggering. In 2013, over 1 in 6 work-related deaths occurred in construction workplaces. These numbers indicate that the issue of construction-related injuries and deaths is a serious problem in this state.

Workers have rights

It is important for those in the construction industry to remember that they have rights. If a construction employee is injured or killed at work, benefits may be available to the worker or the worker’s relatives. Those who would like to learn more about these benefits may want to discuss their situations with a worker compensation lawyer in Algonquin.

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908 S Illinois Route 31
McHenry, IL 60050

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