Articles Posted in Construction Injuries

DSC_2035-199x300According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocutions are the third highest cause of construction worker deaths. Many electrical injuries and fatalities occur after a crane comes into contact with a powerline and the electrical current travels through the crane to the operator of the equipment. In order to help prevent these accidents from ever occurring, OSHA created extensive construction workplace safety rules for the operation of cranes and booms operating near powerlines. (29 C.F.R. 1926.1408).

Under the OSHA regulation, before beginning equipment operations an employer must complete a number of steps. First, the employer must identify the work zone. The employer can either mark off the boundaries and prohibit equipment operators from going beyond the marked boundaries, or the employer can define the work zone as 360 degrees around the equipment up to the maximum working radius.

If any part of the construction equipment could get closer than 20 feet to a powerline within the identified work zone, the employer must take additional steps and complete one of the following options:

On September 26, 2016, two men were seriously injured when a crane at a construction site in West Seattle made contact with overhead power lines close to the job site.  The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. near 42nd Avenue Southwest and Southwest Oregon Street.  As lawyers representing injured construction workers, we have unfortunately seen these types of incidents many times in the past.

Data from the NIOSH National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System indicates that electrocutions accounted for approximately 450 of the 6,400 work-related deaths that occurred annually in the United States from 1980-1989.  Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-108 (May 1995).  In the four-year period from 1985 to 1989, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported 113 deaths from crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines.  Id.  Nearly 30 percent of all electrocutions on the job site involve crane and boom operation.  Id.

As a direct result of the hundreds of electrocutions throughout the nation caused by crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines, a number of regulatory standards have been established to prevent these tragic deaths by state and federal governments.  On the national and international level, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have adopted strict standards to help prevent work site electrocutions.  See 29 CFR 1926.550; Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME B30.5-1994.

Working in the construction industry can be a very challenging and dangerous occupation.  At Kraft Davies we represent both residential and commercial construction workers.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 6,000,000 people working in the construction industry.  In 2014, 4,821 workers died on-the-job; and roughly 20 percent of those deaths were construction worker fatalities.  Among construction worker deaths, there were four leading causes that amounted to over 50 percent of the total deaths; 1) Falls – 359 deaths; 2) Electrocutions – 74 deaths; 3) Struck by Objection – 73 deaths; 4) Caught-in/between – 12 deaths. Construction work can be dangerous, as evident by the 2009 fatal occupational injury rate nearly three times that of all workers in the United States (9.7 injuries 100,000 full-time equivalent construction vs. 3.3 for all workers).  The construction industry also encompassed three of the top ten occupations with the highest fatal injury rate: 1) Roofers; 2) Structural iron and steel workers; 3) Laborers.  Among the frequently cited OSHA standards violated in fiscal year 2015 were two construction specific violations; 1) Fall Protection and 2) Scaffolding.  Falls are the greatest cause of fatal construction injuries.

At Kraft Davies we suggest taking the following safety measures to help ensure a safe construction working environment.

Protecting against falls in a construction zone can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities for the most lethal part of the construction industry.  To protect against falls, guardrails, safety nets, floor covers, and restraint systems should be put in place.