Should Worker Safety Should Be Priority?

Jan 30, 2015 | Workers' Compensation

Construction firms plan to hire more workers as business booms in 2015 – especially in Virginia – according to the recently released results of a trade group survey. Hopefully, these companies will not put their profits before worker safety and will take steps to avoid serious and potentially fatal construction accidents.

VirginiaBusiness.com reports that 81 percent of U.S. construction firms responding to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) said they planned to “expand their payrolls” in the coming year. This hiring figure is up from 57 percent in 2014.

Virginia firms were the most optimistic in the country. Ninety-five percent of the state’s construction companies said they expected to add workers in 2015.

According to the survey, construction companies believe there will be a greater demand for private-sector construction this year, especially construction in the “retail/warehousing/lodging” segment. They also expect manufacturing, private office and energy construction to grow.

With construction expected to soar, the need to hire more workers will increase as well. In fact, there is a concern that construction companies won’t be able to find enough skilled workers to meet demand.

Will Worker’s Health and Safety Be Compromised?

In order to add and maintain workers, you can expect construction companies to boost pay and provide more benefits for their workers. In fact, in the AGCA survey, 51 of the companies said they would increase wages, according to VirginiaBusiness.com.

As companies bring on new workers, however, there is a concern about whether companies will properly train and supervise them, provide them with proper equipment and strictly follow state and federal regulations that are aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.

This is a legitimate concern when one considers the construction industry’s overall track record.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the construction industry accounted for 796 of the 3,929 workers who were killed on the job in 2013 (the latest year for which stats are available). In other words, one in five worker deaths in the U.S. during the year involved construction.

OSHA notes that the four leading causes of those deaths – dubbed the “Fatal Four” – were:

Cause            Deaths Pct.
Falls 294 36.9
Struck by object 82 10.3
Electrocutions 71 8.9
Caught-in/between 21 2.6

As OSHA stats indicate, many of these deaths can be attributed to construction companies’ failure to follow regulations. Indeed, the list of the 10 most frequently violated OSHA safety standards in 2014 relate to the construction industry:

  • Fall protection
  • Hazard communication
  • Scaffolding
  • Respiratory protection
  • Powered industrial trucks
  • Control of hazardous energy
  • Ladders
  • Electrical wiring methods
  • Machinery and machine guarding
  • Electrical systems design.

In other words, while it would certainly be exciting to see growth in the construction industry in 2015, particularly in Virginia, it will also be crucial for companies to ensure their focus on safety keeps pace with meeting demand.

Construction workers should also pay close attention to protecting their legal rights.

If a construction worker is injured on the job in Virginia, the worker may be eligible to seek medical benefits and lost-wage benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation system. Additionally, the families of workers who are killed on the job have the right to seek death benefits.

In some instances, workers or their survivors may also be eligible to pursue a third-party claim against a non-employer who caused an accident.

The workers compensation claims process can be quite complicated, and injured workers often benefit greatly with the help that a licensed workers compensation lawyer can provide. For a free review of your potential workers compensation case, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates today for a free consultation.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.

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