In the 1970, there was an average of 38 construction worker deaths per day in the United States. As of 2013, there was an average of 12 construction worker deaths per day due to construction accidents, with a total of 4,405 deaths.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency in the United States Department of Labor. It answers to the Secretary of Labor.
OSHA inspects construction sites for compliance with federal safety laws and regulations. It is responsible for ensuring employees are safe at work and have a healthy work environment.
According to OSHA, more than half of construction site deaths in 2013 resulted from the Fatal Four. The Fatal Four includes:
- An accidental fall;
- Being struck by an object on the site;
- Electrocution; and
- Getting caught between or inside work equipment.
The year 2013 was a record low for fatal construction accidents. 991 of the 4,693 worker fatalities that were recorded by OSHA in 2016 occurred in the construction industry. That is over 20% of accidents reported that year.
The Fatal Four remains a major problem. Eliminating them would save 631 lives of workers in the United States every year as well as eliminate many non-fatal injuries.
Of the 991 construction deaths that occurred in 2016:
- 384 were caused by falls;
- 93 resulted from being struck by an object;
- 82 were caused by electrocutions; and
- 72 were caused by being caught in-between.
In cities that are experiencing building booms, such as Nashville, TN, there has been a rise in construction worker deaths.
What Businesses Does OSHA Inspect?
OSHA is charged with ensuring its standards are being met by businesses. It is, of course, impossible for them to inspect every workplace. OSHA inspections are scheduled by the government as follows:
- Programmed inspections. These are regularly scheduled inspections that are in high hazard industries;
- Investigation of imminent dangers. Inspecting for any condition or practice that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm to employees;
- Investigation of complaints. OSHA is responsible for investigating complaints made by employees or cases referred to them;
- Faulty and catastrophe investigations. These include any work-related incident that results in the death of an employee or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees.
OSHA inspections are conducted by compliance officers. They are typically performed without advance notice by the state compliance inspector. Although the inspector is not required to provide notice, workplace inspections must be conducted at a reasonable time, which is usually during the employer’s normal work hours, and in a reasonable manner.
Businesses that are considered to be in a low-risk industry may be eligible for a small business exemption. A business with 10 or fewer employees is exempt from programmed inspections as long as they have an occupational injury lost workday rate lower than the national average. The United States national average is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Does OSHA Need a Warrant to Inspect My Business?
Yes, an employer has the right to refuse an OSHA inspection without a warrant. If the inspector cannot provide the warrant, the employer has the right to deny their entry.
OSHA may obtain a warrant from a judge. If an employer allows them to enter without asking for a warrant, or allows them to conduct their search despite not having a warrant, even after the employer requested one, they have voluntarily consented to the search.
What Safety Regulations are in Place for Construction Sites?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is a federal law designed to promote safe working conditions for workers in general, including construction workers, by both enforcing standards and providing training and assistance to employers. OSHA is the federal entity that enforces these laws.
As a companion to this law, there are federal regulations that serve as rules for workplace safety. These may contain more details than the laws provide for specific industries. OSHA performs activities such as:
- Worksite investigations;
- Investigations of allegations of violations; and
- Issuing fines to employers who violate the law.
Additionally, state and local governments may have their own laws or ordinances that are similar to the Occupational Safety and Health Act. These types of state plans are OSHA-approved. OSHA provides funding to help the states conduct health and safety programs.
Most states also have their own Occupational Safety and Health Offices. These offices take reports of work injuries and work related fatalities.
There are some common safety requirements for construction worksites. These include:
- Informing the workers of any hazardous conditions;
- Providing proper safety equipment;
- Providing training on the use of safely use equipment and tools;
- Performing tests on equipment in order to ensure it is adequately functioning; and/or
- Notifying OSHA of any fatality within 8 hours of its occurrence.
OSHA advocates for lockout and machine guarding safe guards for machinery. They also advocate for respiratory protection. In addition, they advocate for more safety and training for all aspects of construction work.
The Fall Prevention Campaign by OSHA stresses the need for a safety plan as well as providing the right equipment and training every worker to use that equipment safely. Many accidents are a result of lack of training. OSHA provides a manual of Training Requirements that meet OSHA standards.
What are the Top Ten Violations of Constructions Site Safety Most Commonly Cited by OSHA?
There are many different safety violations for which OSHA gives citations. Some citations were in the construction industry, specifically, and some were given in industry in general. The ten most common citations given in 2017 included:
- Fall protection (construction);
- Hazard communication standard (general industry);
- Scaffolding (construction);
- Respiratory protection (general industry);
- Control of hazardous energy (general industry);
- Ladders (construction);
- Powered industrial trucks (general industry);
- Machinery and machine guarding (general requirements);
- Fall protection (training requirements); and
- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment (general industry).
Is My Employer Liable for Construction Accidents?
Federal and state laws require construction worksites to maintain safe conditions for construction workers. This requirement is part of their legal duty of care. Therefore, a construction worksite must fix any issues that arise, provide safety equipment for dangerous jobs, and train their employees on how to safely perform their jobs.
When a construction worksite fails to do these things, it has breached its duty of care. The worksite may then be liable for violating labor laws for failing to follow code.
Additionally, if an accident occurs which results in an injury or a fatality, the employer may be liable for any fines issued by OSHA. The employer may also be liable for negligence and personal injuries in a civil lawsuit filed by the construction worker or their family.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I’ve Been in an Accident?
Yes, it is essential to have the help of an experienced workplace injury lawyer if you have been in a construction worksite accident. Unless the employee is the sole cause of their construction worksite accident, their employer is liable for any injuries or fatalities they suffer as a result of unsafe work conditions.
There are several laws you may be able to file a claim under, such as state labor laws or general negligence. Your lawyer can review your case, determine what claims may be available to you, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. It is important to have a lawyer help you sort through the numerous and complex worksite laws in order to recover damages for your injuries.