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New York Construction Workers and the Risk of Brain Injuries

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Kelly Wolford
construction worker fall and injured

A report published earlier this year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine – and recently covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention NIOSH Science Blog – reveals some troubling news about the risks of brain injury for construction workers in New York and other areas of the country.

The report found that construction worker traumatic brain injury-related deaths comprised 24 percent of all occupational TBI fatalities in the U.S. during the period between 2003 and 2010 and 25 percent of all construction fatalities during that same period.

Workplace Head Injury Statistics

The report reveals that TBIs are more common among construction workers than they are among workers in other industries. Additionally, the report shows:

  • Older workers in the construction injury are nearly four times more likely than younger workers to experience a fatal TBI.
  • Males in construction work are seven times more likely than women to die from a TBI.
  • Workers in smaller construction companies are more likely to experience a fatal TBI than workers in larger construction companies. In fact, the ratio is 2.5 to 1.

The report indicates that the majority of TBIs are completely preventable. For instance, workers incur most TBIs as the result of a fall injury. Falls from scaffolds, roofs and ladders led to approximately 50 percent of fatal TBIs.

It should be no surprise that the most at-risk group of construction workers are structural iron and steel workers as well as roofers and others who often work at heights and, in turn, are most likely to fall.

TBIs in the Construction Industry: What Is Being Done to Prevent Them?

The high rate of serious and deadly TBIs among construction workers should raise red flags about safety standards in the industry.

One thing that has been done to address this issue is the development of a fall-prevention campaign headed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NIOSH and the Center for Protection of Workers’ Rights (CPWR).

The campaign is primarily focused on safety and fall prevention for those who work at heights. The campaign’s safety initiatives include a call for better harness fitting for workers performing their jobs at heights. The campaign also promotes the use of a safety rail assembly that includes a guardrail system that would protects workers if they misstep.

The reality is that employers in the construction industry are not doing enough to protect workers and to prevent tragic injuries from occurring. However, this campaign provides a path that the industry can follow to address the serious issue of TBIs among workers.

What Legal Options Do Construction Workers Have after a Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries can be extremely serious. While some TBIs may result in obvious harm such as death or significant changes to the individual’s ability to function, other harm caused by TBIs may not be so obvious. However, these latter injuries should not be taken lightly. TBIs of any kind can potentially have devastating effects, especially if not cared for properly.

While we sincerely hope that you or a loved one is never the victim of a work-related traumatic brain injury, we want you to know that legal options are available for you to pursue compensation that will help in your recovery, including compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Your options after you or a loved one suffers a work-related TBI in New York can go beyond workers’ compensation benefits.

For example, you may be eligible to bring a claim based on a violation of Labor Law § 240(1), or the “Scaffold Law.” This law mandates that construction site owners, contractors and their agents ensure the safety of workers who perform tasks in a location, or in a manner, where they could fall from one level to another.

The law specifically protects workers who have been hired to work “in the furtherance of” erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure and who are exposed to “gravity-related risks.”

The safety devices mandated by the law include scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes and other devices that are used to allow both workers and materials to reach elevated locations.

If a construction site owner, contractor or one of its agents breaches the duty it owes to workers, it can lead to liability. It doesn’t matter whether the worker’s own negligence contributed to the injury.

Unlike workers’ compensation claims, which typically pay only medical expenses and replace a portion of a worker’s lost wages, a Labor Law claim can cover the full extent of your lost wages and future lost wages, all past medical expenses and future medical expenses, pain and suffering and more.

In some cases, you may also be able to seek punitive damages.

Did Your or a Loved One Suffer TBI at an Albany or Syracuse Construction Site?

If you or a loved one has suffered a construction site-related traumatic brain injury or other work-related injury, you should contact an experienced construction site accident lawyer without delay.

Serious and deadly brain injuries occur in the construction industry at an unacceptably high rate. By filing a lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation as well as help to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety standards. In this sense, you can help to protect workers from sustaining similar injuries in the future.

It is important that you act quickly, as the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in New York is, generally speaking, three years from the date that the injury occurred.

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our team of professional workplace accident attorneys is ready to get to work on your behalf.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about what your rights are and the types of compensation that may be available to you. We serve construction workers and their families in Albany, Syracuse and communities throughout New York.