The following is a guest post written by Laurence Banville, Esq.
Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.
Construction is on the rise again, especially in the Northeast region of the U.S. The attractive landscapes of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New York are drawing people back to the east coast. People are finding that they can get that country home feel with metropolitan access, and most are building new homes and businesses in these states for that very reason. Of course, with new and increased construction comes new and increased personal injury cases. Newer technology and methods of construction are also changing the frequency and types of injuries too. All those changes seem to be changing construction law practice.
Injuries To Construction Workers
Millions of people are working in New York and their professions cause some significant injuries that take them out of work. The most dangerous of these workplace injuries occur on construction work sites.
Injuries to construction workers are common. However, the types of injuries are changing. Instead of hitting their fingers with a hammer and screaming in pain, workers are now dealing with nail guns piercing body parts and stud welders melting body parts to welded studs. One in every 250 welding accidents ends in death, a shocking statistic considering that other causes of death are not nearly as high. These types of injuries are much more severe, as they require emergency medical care to remove the person from the scene and remove the object in the injured person's body.
If you work in construction, going a single day without so much as hammering a finger is a miracle and considered a "good day." Construction has one of the highest injury and fatality rates of 21.4%, meaning that almost a quarter of everyone who works in this field will sustain an injury or possibly a fatality on the job. Falls, electrocutions, struck by falling objects and caught in between objects or materials are considered the "top four deadliest" incidents in construction. As it stands alone, the likelihood of construction related injuries requires legal help among other things.
Increased Construction Leading To More Lawsuits
As construction increases, so will the rates of injury and possibly death. That means that lawyers need to step up and be ready for the upcoming personal injury lawsuits that are sure to ensue, as some contractors try to cut corners with immigrant help and/or subpar materials. These situations and issues also increase the probability of injury as cheaper and less-trained labor work with materials that will fall apart and drop on the heads of people below.
When the labor is not cheap and neither are the materials, then you may be dealing with cases that involve newer, high-tech materials and construction machines that experienced construction workers are not familiar with. Personal injury cases involving neglectful actions on the part of employers are now cropping up. When experienced workers are not trained to handle new machines and new materials, it is almost as bad as cheaper, less-experienced workers doing the same job. However, legal help is expanding beyond injuries and into new technology.
Advanced Materials Changes
Advanced materials of space-age construction take construction law in new directions as well. Employees who have never seen these materials are not sure how to assemble or use them, leading to more injuries than before. Take the world's first modular plastic bridge in the U.K. Assembling a bridge with this product requires a learning curve not experienced by most construction workers before. Failure to assemble it correctly results in injuries to workers and citizens alike. Many other, newer and technologically advanced materials can have a similar impact on construction and construction law.
Many other, newer and technologically advanced materials can have a similar impact on construction and construction law. All these changes definitely require construction lawyers to gear up for the variety of personal injury related cases to come as construction increases and technology advances.
If you have not submitted your company’s OSHA Form 300A electronically through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) yet, you only have a few days left to do so.
OSHA has long used the language in the OSH act to find and hold multiple employers accountable for the actions of another on construction job sites. For decades, OSHA would not only cite the employer whose employees were exposed to hazards, but would also cite the employer who was designated the “controlling employer” on-site, which is most often the general contractor.
The controversial Electronic Injury and Illness Reporting rule from OSHA was supposed to go into effect on December 1, 2017, but OSHA has recently delayed that enforcement to allow those affected to become familiar with the new electronic reporting system.
Project managers and supervisors are responsible for keeping their employees safe and the court system has recently shown that they take that responsibility very seriously. When supervisors act in a negligent manner and people get hurt or killed, they should be held liable.
Construction Safety is talked about constantly. There are many construction companies that take it very seriously. There are also many that don’t. All will say it’s their top priority.
So what can a city do that’s facing regular worker deaths and increases in workplace injuries? New York City has decided to require extensive safety training for all of the 185,000 construction workers in the city.
OSHA currently controls over 20 laws that protect workers who file safety complaints against their employer or other employees. In general, whistleblowers are protected against retaliation from their employer.
In August of 2016, it was discovered that a luxury high rise condominium complex in San Francisco, which houses several celebrities, was sinking and leaning considerably. The 58-story Millennium Tower contains home that range in value of anywhere from $1.6 million to $10 million. Since the discovery, fingers have been pointed in all directions and several lawsuits have been filed.
In January of this year, tragedy struck a Florida construction company when 3 construction workers died while working underground below a newly paved road. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed after entering the confined space through a manhole, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. After a post-incident investigation, OSHA has released their findings, as well as several fines.
In late June, OSHA pushed the enforcement of their 2016 rule which will require employers to electronically submit injury and illness reports from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017. At that time it was unknown when the administration would launch the platform to submit the data online, but that has now been decided.
In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.