National Construction Appreciation Week, from September 18-22, is a time to recognize and appreciate the contributions of the construction industry and its workforce. For facility managers and executives, maintaining a safe working environment for these workers is vital to prevent accidents and injuries. Many types of accidents can lead to personal injury claims, such as falls, equipment malfunctions, and scaffolding collapses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks construction as one of New York’s most dangerous occupations, accounting for the highest number of work-related fatalities in New York City.
To learn more about how facilities managers can protect construction workers from harm while on the job, Facility Executive spoke with David Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Lawyer at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., who has over 40 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer representing countless construction worker safety cases.
Facility Executive: What are some tips for workers and employers on how to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites?
David Perecman: Minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries on construction sites should be a top priority for both construction workers and employers. Some essential tips to help ensure safety on construction sites include:
- Develop a Safety Program: Develop a comprehensive safety program that includes policies, procedures, and guidelines for all workers to follow. Assign a dedicated safety officer or manager responsible for implementing and enforcing safety measures.
- Provide Training: Offer regular safety training and orientation for all employees, including new hires and subcontractors. Ensure that workers are trained on the proper use of equipment, machinery, and tools.
- Conduct Hazard Assessments: Identify potential hazards on the construction site through regular inspections and address any identified promptly and effectively.
- Promote and Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Require the use of appropriate PPE, such as hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and steel-toed boots.
- Safe Equipment and Machinery: Regularly inspect and maintain all construction equipment and machinery. Replace or repair any defective equipment.
- Communicate Safety Guidelines and Have an Emergency Response Plan: Clearly communicate safety rules and guidelines to all workers and make sure they understand them. Develop and implement an emergency response plan that includes procedures for handling accidents, injuries and evacuations.
Construction Worker Tips:
- Follow Safety Procedures: Adhere to safety protocols, including the proper use of equipment and tools.
- Use PPE: Wear the appropriate PPE at all times to protect against potential hazards.
- Stay Alert: Avoid distractions and stay focused. Be aware of your surroundings, including moving machinery and other workers.
- Proper Lifting Techniques: Use proper lifting techniques to prevent back injuries. When lifting heavy objects, use your legs and not your back.
- Report Incidents: Immediately report accidents or injuries to your supervisor or safety officer.
- Attend Safety Training: Participate in safety training and refresher courses as required by your employer. Stay updated on best practices and new safety guidelines
FE: What are some of the most common construction site mistakes that can lead to workplace injuries?
DP: Construction sites are inherently dangerous environments, and mistakes can lead to serious workplace injuries and fatalities if not careful. Some of the most common construction site mistakes that can result in accidents include: lack of proper training, inadequate PPE, failure to identify and mitigate hazards, unsafe use of equipment and tools, inadequate fall protection, scaffolding and electrical safety.
What do you think the employers involved in some of your construction worker safety cases could have done to better protect their employees?
DP: The State of New York enforces labor laws designed to ensure construction workers have a safe place to work. In most cases, employers have failed OR neglected to follow one or more of the following laws, which have resulted in the injury of one of their workers: Labor Law 200, Labor Law 240 and Labor Law 241.
FE: Can you provide information about what steps facility managers and executives should take after someone has been injured on a construction site?
DP: When someone has been injured on a construction site, it’s crucial for facility managers and executives to respond promptly and effectively to ensure the injured person receives the necessary medical attention and that the incident is properly documented. This should be done in the following order: ensure the person injured receives immediate medical attention by calling 911, isolate the area, provide first aid if you have trained personnel on-site, and document the incident properly by including the date, time and location of the incident; names and contact information of witnesses; description of the injuries and their severity; any equipment or materials involved in the accident and actions taken by personnel immediately after the incident.
In New York, the workers’ compensation system provides covered workers with necessary medical care and partial wage-replacement benefits to help them make ends meet while they are recovering. These no-fault benefits are available to construction workers regardless of who was to blame for the accident, even in third-party cases. However, the worker could be eligible to file an additional claim for compensation under New York’s Labor Law.
FE: What types of construction projects tend to result in the most injuries?
DP: Construction projects vary widely in scope and complexity, but certain types of projects tend to have a higher risk of injuries due to their inherent challenges and hazards. Some of the construction projects that tend to result in the most injuries include: high-rise building construction, highway road construction, demolition projects, roofing projects and bridge and tunnel construction.