In 1970, America was averaging 38 construction worker deaths per day. In 2013, an average of 12 construction workers died each day due to construction accidents for a total of 4,405 deaths. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency within the United States Department of Labor, and answers to the Secretary of Labor. It inspects construction sites for compliance with federal safety laws and regulations.

According to OSHA, over half of the construction site deaths in 2013 resulted from “the Fatal Four”. The Fatal Four includes:

  • Accidental falls;
  • Being struck by an object on site;
  • Electrocution; and
  • Getting caught inside or between work equipment.

2013 was a record low for fatal construction accidents. In 2016, 991 of the 4,693 worker fatalities recorded by OSHA occurred in the construction industry. That is over 20%. The Fatal Four remain a major problem, and eliminating them would save 631 workers’ lives in the U.S. every year, not to mention eliminate many non-fatal injuries.

Out of the 991 construction deaths in 2016:

  • 384 were caused by falls;
  • 93 were the result of being struck by an object;
  • 82 were caused by electrocutions; and
  • 72 were caused by being caught in-between.

Cities where there are building booms, such as Nashville, TN, have seen a rise in construction worker death.

What Safety Regulations are in Place for Construction Sites?

OSHA works according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which is a federal law designed to promote safe working conditions (for workers in general-to include construction workers) by both enforcing standards and providing training and assistance to employers.

As a companion to the laws, there are federal regulations, which serve as rules for workplace safety, and may contain more details than the laws provide for specific industries. OSHA conducts worksite investigations, investigates allegations of violations, and fines employers.

In addition, state and local governments may also have state laws or ordinances similar to the Occupational Safety and Health Act. These state plans are OSHA-approved, and OSHA provides funding to help the states conduct health and safety programs. Most states also have their own Occupational Safety and Health offices, to which work injuries and fatalities may be reported.

Common safety requirements for construction worksites include:

  • Informing workers of any hazardous conditions;
  • Providing safety equipment;
  • Providing training on how to safely use equipment and tools;
  • Performing tests on equipment to ensure it is adequately functioning; and/or
  • Notifying OSHA within 8 hours of any fatality.

OSHA has advocated for lockout and machine guarding safeties for machinery and for respiratory protection. They also advocate for more safety and training in all aspects of construction work. OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign stresses the need to have a safety plan, providing the right equipment and training everyone to use the equipment safely. Lack of training accounts for many accidents.

OSHA also produces a manual of Training Requirements which meet OSHA standards.

What are the Top Ten Violations of Constructions Site Safety Most Commonly Cited by OSHA?

Although there are many different safety violations that OSHA may give citations for, the ten most common for 2017 are listed below. Some are for the construction industry, specifically, and some are for industry in general.

  1. Fall protection (construction);
  2. Hazard communication standard (general industry);
  3. Scaffolding (construction);
  4. Respiratory protection (general industry);
  5. Control of hazardous energy (general industry);
  6. Ladders (construction);
  7. Powered industrial trucks (general industry);
  8. Machinery and machine guarding (general requirements);
  9. Fall protection (training requirements); and
  10. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment (general industry).

Is My Employer Liable for Construction Accidents?

Construction worksites are required by state and federal law to maintain safe conditions for construction workers. This is known as a duty of care. Thus construction worksites must fix any issues that arise, provide safety equipment for dangerous jobs, and train the employees on how to properly and safely perform their jobs.

When the construction worksite fails to do this, it has breached its duty of care. It can be liable for violating labor laws for failing to follow code.

In addition, if an accident occurs that results in an injury or fatality, the employer will be liable for any fines issued by OSHA. The employer may also be liable for negligence and personal injury in a civil lawsuit filed by the construction worker or his/her family.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I’ve Been in an Accident?

Unless the worker is the sole cause of a construction worksite accident, the employer is liable for any injuries or fatalities due to unsafe work conditions. There are a variety of different laws a plaintiff can pursue a case under, such as state labor laws or general theories of negligence. You need a local personal injury lawyer to help you navigate any potential claim related to a construction accident.