Were you injured on the job at a construction site?
Approximately 11.2 million people work in the construction industry in the U.S. While the exact number of people in the construction sector in North & South Carolina is not clear, it’s clear that the local industry is expected to experience continued growth in the coming months and years. Especially in a growing city like Charlotte, construction is a constant and an important part of the local economy.
Unfortunately, construction is not a safe line of work. In fact, construction work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the Carolinas and nationwide. Even when the most strict safety measures are followed, construction accidents and injuries happen with shocking regularity.
If you are a construction worker in North or South Carolina, it’s important for you to fully understand your rights and responsibilities following a workplace accident or occupational illness diagnosis. But first, let’s talk about the most common causes of construction accidents (and how to prevent them).
Common construction injuries and accidents
Some of the common injuries in the construction sector include:
Falls from heights are fairly common in the construction sector. When it comes to falls, the injuries might be attributed to heights or trips and slips on the same level. Construction sites are frequently littered with sudden floor openings, slick surfaces and precarious support structures, so falls are common in such areas. Whenever there is an increased reliance on ladders, there is a higher risk of falling and getting hurt.
Despite falls being common, there are specific measures that can (and should) be taken to minimize these risks, such as:
- Installing lighting to better illuminate work areas and avoid hazards.
- Using the right safety equipment to prevent falls, including harnesses and guardrails.
- Wearing the correct footwear with good grip and traction.
- Keeping a tidy work area and cleaning up clutter.
- Following all safety regulations (especially when using ladders).
Construction workers should also undergo any and all mandatory safety training per state and federal regulations, and also be aware of different health and safety measures.
Workers are commonly electrocuted at construction sites. Severe electrocution can cause muscular contractions, nerve damage, and even cardiac arrest or death. When you get electrocuted, you might also sustain severe burn injuries.
To reduce the occurrence of electrocution on the jobsite, construction workers, contractors and companies should heed the following safety measures:
- De-energize equipment after use
- Wear necessary safety equipment in the workplace at all times
- Cover exposed wiring and keep it away from any liquids
- Maintain a safe distance from energized machinery parts
It’s the role of both the construction site manager and employees to ensure the workforce is safe so that no one is at risk of being electrocuted.
Strain injuries usually occur because of repetitive motion that causes excessive pressure over time that affects the body’s muscles and bones. Such injuries on the construction site can be caused by operating power tools and heavy machinery such as jack-hammers.
To prevent repetitive strain injuries, construction workers should take regular breaks. If you are experiencing any form of discomfort, get in touch with the site supervisor and explain your concern. Then, see a doctor to talk about pain management, treatment and prevention of further injury.
Fires and explosions
Flammable chemicals and combustible materials are commonly found at many construction sites. If a fire breaks out on the construction site or an explosion occurs, the consequences and injuries can be devastating.
Although such accidents are uncommon, construction workers and companies must be vigilant in preventing a tragic event. If you notice any potential hazard at the construction site, report it to your construction manager or OSHA if taken seriously.
Since there is heavy machinery at the construction site, there is the risk of getting stuck or caught up in the machine. Some of these accidents occur when a worker is pinned against the wall by heavy machinery, while others occur when a worker is hit by a moving machine.
To prevent these types of accidents, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times. Also, ensure you’re adhering to the safety precautions that have been put in place by your site manager. By adhering to some simple safety measures, you can minimize the risk of getting stuck by:
- Not resting your body against any moving machinery
- Wearing gloves and avoiding wearing jewelry when operating any form of machinery
Trenches are an important part of any building, whether large or small, since they’re needed when laying the foundation of buildings. If a trench collapses, the buried workers can face catastrophic injuries—if they survive at all. In some instances, the workers may be struck by an object that led to the collapse of the trench.
Fortunately, such accidents can be avoided by ensuring the trench is being supported fully. If you notice any defect or deviation in standard trench safety, you should report it immediately to the site manager.
Workers’ compensation laws in North & South Carolina
Under worker’s compensation laws in North and South Carolina, most injured construction workers are eligible for medical treatment and wage replacement compensation during the period when they’re incapacitated.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that you should receive benefits regardless of who or what caused your work-related injuries. Even if you partially contributed to your own injury, you can still get workers’ compensation benefits. As a result, construction workers generally cannot sue their employer for a work-related accident.
An exemption is when an employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their injury. In this case, the injured party may not be compensated.
As a construction worker, you may be entitled to the following workers’ compensation benefits:
- Emergency care. A construction worker should be taken to the emergency room after they’re injured at the jobsite. They also need ample time to recover since the recovery process may take a few weeks or even months. Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover these emergency medical expenses regardless of where you were treated.
- Long-term medical care. If a construction worker is injured at work, they might need long-term therapy and treatment in addition to emergency care. Workers’ compensation should help cover these medical expenses as well, so long as you treat with an authorized medical provider.
- Lost wages. During the healing period, covered construction workers are eligible for two-thirds of their average weekly pay until they’re fully healed. However, there is a 500-week limit and a cap on the compensation provided.
- Death benefits. If a construction worker is killed in a fatal work accident, their surviving spouse, children and other dependents may be eligible for compensation for the deceased’s worker’s medical care prior to their passing, as well as lost future earnings and funeral/burial expenses.
Third-party injury claims are also possible in North and South Carolina. Third-party claims are when a person is injured by a person or other party at the construction site that is not their direct employer. Additional damages that may be sought in these cases include pain and suffering and punitive damages.
Contact a construction site work accident attorney in North or South Carolina
If you have suffered an injury at a construction site and were denied workers’ compensation benefits—or if the compensation being offered isn’t enough to cover your expenses from the work-related accident—you should meet with a workers’ compensation attorney near you to better understand your rights.