Construction sites are dangerous places to work. In addition to motor vehicles zipping around the site at all hours, construction workers use heavy and powerful equipment. Many also work high up in the air, twisting and turning to perform difficult tasks. When something goes wrong, these workers suffer horrifying injuries.
According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the state. In 2021, 61 people died on construction sites, an increase of nearly 50% from the previous year. Thousands of other workers were injured in various accidents that were preventable. Unfortunately, government regulators ended up performing fewer safety inspections as fatalities soared.
To mitigate risk, construction sites should have ample safety equipment. Some of this equipment is required by government regulation. Unfortunately, too many construction sites are missing personal protective equipment, or the PPE they do provide is worn out, old, or defective. As a result, construction workers can suffer terrifying injuries, even when they have used the utmost care to protect themselves and followed all required safety regulations.
Below, our Syracuse construction accident lawyers identify some of the most common pieces of safety equipment used on job sites. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, if you were injured in an accident.
A hard hat is a basic piece of safety equipment at construction sites. So many things can rain down on a workers’ head, from pieces of rock, brick, or wood, to heavier objects like hammers and nail guns. Hard hats can also protect from electrical voltage. The Occupational Safety and Health Agency recommends checking your hard hat regularly for damage and replacing it every two years.
Many construction workers do their jobs high up in the air. Any fall could cause devastating injuries to a worker’s head, neck, or back. It is not unusual for someone to suffer paralysis after a fall from a second story or higher.
Fall protection devices are common. The typical device involves a body support connected to an anchor. In other cases, the jobsite might include nets to catch a falling worker.
A construction worker’s eyes are vulnerable to injury. Not only can small objects strike the eyeball, but light or chemicals can also cause blindness. All sorts of construction workers wear goggles or a face shield to perform such tasks as welding, electrical work, or demolition. These shields and goggles should prevent any object from hitting the eyeball and, where appropriate, shield the worker from intense light.
Hearing loss is an underappreciated construction injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 22 million workers face a hazardous level of noise at work. Unfortunately, many workers can suffer full or partial hearing loss due to the intense, loud noises at the site. Ear protection can include earplugs and earmuffs.
Gloves are important whenever workers are handling sharp items, hot items, or dealing with chemicals or electrical currents. There are different types of gloves, and you should have the right one that is designed for the job you are doing. For example, not all gloves can protect against electrical currents.
The right footwear provides sufficient traction when working on roofs, scaffolding, or slippery surfaces. Boots also protect against falling objects, like rocks or nails. When working in cold weather, adequate boots should also protect against freezing and frost bite.
Workers must also protect their chest, arms, and legs with appropriate clothing. Any hazard that could injure your hand, for example, could also injure your trunk or legs. Workers should have clothing that is appropriate for the weather and whatever task they are doing.
Body protection should also fit properly. For example, loose clothing could get caught in a machine and pull a workers’ limb into the machine.
Can You Sue if Injured by Defective Safety Equipment?
Despite the presence of safety equipment, many workers continue to suffer injury. They still fall to the grounds, suffer burns, and lose their eyesight or hearing. What can you, as the injured worker, do?
One option is to sue for compensation. There are different people you could sue, depending on the situation.
First, you might sue your employer for failing to provide adequate equipment as required by law. New York’s Labor Law has several provisions which might come into play. For example, Section 240 applies to anyone hurt by a falling object. Section 241 applies when a construction owner or employer fails to follow safety regulations or fails to make safety equipment available.
Second, you might sue the equipment manufacturer if it is defective. For example, your goggles might be new, but they shatter when a tiny rock fragment hits them. Or the earplugs you use might fail to keep out as much noise as they claim. A manufacturer is liable in New York for selling hazardous products to the public.
What if You Used the Equipment Improperly?
You might have been provided with necessary equipment but not used it correctly. Does that failure defeat your legal claim?
Not necessarily. For example, you might not have received adequate instruction on how to use safety equipment, or the direction could be lacking. Inadequate instructions can also make products defective.
You might also receive workers’ compensation benefits. These are no-fault, so it doesn’t really matter if you carelessly forgot to use your PPE properly. We always review whether an injured construction worker can make a workers’ comp claim. This program provides immediate medical benefits as well as replacement of some lost wages for those too hurt to work.
Speak with Our Syracuse Construction Accident Lawyers
Injured workers are often surprised when their safety equipment fails to work. You should review your case with a lawyer at Powers & Santola, LLP. We know the Syracuse construction industry quite well and realize that safety lapses occur with some frequency. Give us a call and we can discuss your possible compensation, whether that is workers’ comp benefits or a lawsuit—or both.