The American Workplace: Hazardous to Life and Health?

According to data released by the U.S, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of work-related deaths in 2010 remained roughly the same as in 2009. There is some good news in the private construction sector, where workplace fatalities declined 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 and 40 percent since 2003. Fatal falls are down 42 percent since 2007 and fatal injuries resulting from being struck by objects or equipment have also decreased.

Even though construction site deaths may have declined, this does not necessarily mean that the workplace is safer. The economy plays a role in work-related fatality statistics. If fewer people are employed or people are working fewer hours, this may account for some reduction in workplace injuries and deaths. We must bear in mind that, in 2010, nearly 5,000 employees died because of work-related injuries. Even one workplace death is too many if it could have been prevented.

Generally, an employee cannot sue his employer for accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment. In such cases, the employee’s remedy is Workers Compensation. In other instances, however, someone other than the employer may be responsible for causing a work-related injury. When this occurs, the employee may be able to sue the third party for damages not covered by Workers Compensation. The employee may, for example, seek compensation for lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering,

A construction site is a beehive of activity where several different subcontractors may be working at the same time. If they are careless, or negligent, they may create a number of possible hazards for workers at the site:

Being struck by construction vehicles such as cranes, forklifts or dump trucks.

Falling from scaffolding which has not been properly secured.

Being struck by falling tools or building debris.

Falling into an unsecured elevator shaft or from a poorly secured roof.

Falling into a trench or being injured when unstable trench walls collapse.

Workers Compensation cannot punish third party construction site contractors for inadequate safety controls and dangerous working conditions. It is very important that an injured worker discuss possible third party claims with a knowledgeable attorney. Together, they can help to ensure that the right people are held responsible for dangerous working conditions and make worksites safer for all employees.