Construction is an inherently dangerous line of work. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics periodically releases a list of our nation’s most dangerous jobs, and construction trades frequently round out the top 10. One of the most dangerous aspects of the job is working with heavy equipment, which injures hundreds of workers each year. Let’s look at some of the worst offenders:

Electrocution

OSHA has identified the most dangerous aspects of working construction, which it’s dubbed “The Fatal Four.” The first of these is electrocution. Almost 10% of all construction worker fatalities are due to electrical hazards. Between 2003 and 2012, 12% of all construction worker fatalities came from the equipment trades sector, which handles electrical, plumbing, and air and heating. These workers are most likely to be electrocuted by live wires or be injured by using specialized equipment that malfunctions.

Mobile Heavy Machinery

Vehicles are a major source of fatality and injury in construction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they caused over 7600 deaths between 1992 and 2010 at a rate of about 404 deaths annually. Between 2008 and 2010, over half of construction fatalities at road construction sites were the direct result of vehicles. Dump trucks are the most common cause of construction worker injury and death due to mobile heavy equipment. These vehicles killed 100 workers between 2003 and 2010.

“Struck-By” Objects

Construction workers are often wounded or killed when they’re struck by objects. There are several scenarios in which a worker may be struck by an object or machinery, such as:

  • Being struck by the counterweight of an excavator.
  • Maneuvering a crane and the load falling from the lifting clamp.
  • Being struck by vehicles that aren’t part of a construction site, like a pickup truck changing lanes and entering a work area while working road construction.

These aren’t just possibilities for how construction workers get hurt; they are actual examples reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in recent years. Struck-by accidents are one of the most common causes of worker injury and death, earning its spot as another one of the “Fatal Four.”

Cranes

Cranes are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on a construction site. The Bureau of Labor Statistics periodically publishes data regarding injuries from heavy machinery. Here are the most recent numbers (from 2008):

  • Crane collapses caused 25 deaths and 59 injuries
  • Contact with overhead power lines caused 10 deaths and 8 injuries
  • Contact with crane load caused 6 deaths and 10 injuries
  • Other causes lead to 7 deaths and 16 injuries

Backhoes

According to a study published in the Journal of Safety Research, operators and construction laborers make up nearly 2/3rds of all heavy equipment-related deaths. Of these, backhoes are involved in almost half. Backhoes are especially dangerous because they are unwieldy and feature poor visibility. In one incident reported to BLS, a backhoe operator ran over an onsite inspector and didn’t even realize it. Not only are they dangerous to drivers, operators are often unaware of what’s happening around them, making them dangerous to everyone else. For heavy equipment operators, rollovers are the main cause of worker injury and death.

Why Do Heavy Machinery Accidents Happen?

In a dangerous occupation, accidents can – and do – happen. On the other hand, many injuries and fatalities are avoidable. One of the most common reasons for worker injury is improper training, which may be the result of employer negligence. Another common cause may be equipment malfunctioning, which may be the result of manufacturer negligence.

If you’ve been injured in a construction accident, you may not have to settle with a worker’s compensation claim. Injured workers who have been victims of negligence may have options for legal recourse beyond an initial insurance claim. Contact us for a confidential and strategic review of your legal options.

Seth Smiley
Seth is an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana and California. He is the owner and lead attorney at Smiley Law Firm. To speak with Seth fill out the form on this page.
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