Construction is an inherently dangerous industry, but many injuries are avoidable with reasonable care. Nearly 1 in 5 workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry in 2021. Just over one-third of those construction deaths were due to falls, slips, and trips. Knowing this, it is important to understand who is responsible to keep a construction site safe and free of hazards. Not only is this person or party required to be attentive to everything happening on site, but they also may be held liable if an injury occurs.
There can be many workers at a single job site including electricians, plumbers, framers, and brick masons, as well as countless other laborers and subcontractors. It is the general contractor’s responsibility to coordinate all of these workers and ensure a safe environment according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, but they may not be the only liable party if an accident occurs due to construction hazards. The unique circumstances of what happened will generally dictate how you will proceed in seeking legal recovery. Keep reading to learn about construction site hazards and who may be responsible for ensuring safety on-site.
Construction Industry Injury Statistics
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have invested time and resources to provide industry-specific construction site safety statistics undoubtedly because injuries are so prevalent. Some of those statistics include the following:
- A total of 1,015 construction workers died while working in 2021;
- The leading causes of construction deaths are falls (35%), being struck by equipment (17%), electrocutions (7.6%), and being caught in-between objects (5.8%);
- Construction workers make up 6% of the U.S. workforce but accounted for approximately 16% of total workplace fatalities in 2021;
- Construction industry injury and illness rates were 24% higher than in all other industries;
- Construction worker injuries account for 6% of all injuries requiring employees to take time off work; and
- Fall protection, hazard communication, fall protection training, and eye and face protection are four of the ten most frequent citations issued by OSHA that are specific to the construction industry.
Accidents happen, but many of these deaths and injuries were preventable by taking reasonable and mandated safety precautions. Part of construction safety precautions involves meeting and posting required safety information, using proper safety equipment, providing employee training, communication, and much more.
Who Is Responsible to Keep a Construction Site Safe and Free of Hazards?
Though the general contractor is largely responsible for managing safety protocol on-site, there are instances where liability could fall to others. In many cases, liability only comes into play if you choose to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries, lost wages, or other damage. In those instances, your initial starting point is typically to file a New Jersey workers’ compensation claim.
The decision to file a workers’ compensation claim rather than a claim or lawsuit against another party is largely dependent on who is legally liable for causing the accident and the extent of your injury. Anytime you have serious injuries caused by someone else’s negligent action or inaction, it is important to seek professional legal counsel. This is true even if you file a workers’ compensation claim. It is also worth noting that your workers’ compensation claim could be denied, in which case, an attorney can help you appeal the decision.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation
In New Jersey, every employer must have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, with only a handful of exceptions. This coverage is used for medical treatment, lost wages, ongoing treatment, temporary or total disability benefits, and even death benefits for families. There are certain steps you must take to ensure your claim is filed timely and correctly. It is important to know that not all claims are approved, and that workers’ compensation does not provide recovery for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
When Can You File A Workplace Injury Lawsuit Against a Third Party?
If a third party caused the accident, you might be able to file a lawsuit at the same time you are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. This is one of the reasons why it is important to know who is responsible to keep a construction site safe and free of hazards. In order to be legally liable for the injuries of another person, the defendant must have an actual duty to protect the injured party and act in a way that results in harm. Here are some examples of third parties who could be responsible for construction site safety.
Contractors and Subcontractors
Depending on the project, the construction company may not be the only one on-site. Unfortunately, not all companies adhere to strict safety standards even if they should, or they may be otherwise responsible for construction site hazards. This includes clean up of the site after work is done.
In New Jersey, you can generally only hold the property owner liable for construction site injuries if they knew a potential hazard existed and did not attempt to remove or warn of the danger. Working on structures is inherently dangerous but if the property owner knew of hidden dangers like asbestos or a rotting foundation, that likely constitutes a lack of reasonable care. The same could be said if a property owner had a vicious dog they allowed on the property.
Construction materials and tools, especially power tools and other machinery, can be very dangerous if not used properly. A defective or malfunctioning piece of equipment or tools could cause serious injuries on a construction site. In these circumstances, the designer or manufacturer of the equipment could be held liable for the hazard.
Other Employee Action
There are some circumstances in which a co-worker has made a mistake that causes them to be personally liable. In many cases, these types of mistakes fall under the umbrella of no-fault workers’ compensation; however, acts that are deemed intentional or especially negligent could have legal consequences for the employee.
Contact a Construction Injury Attorney
Though construction hazards are hard to avoid, you should not be held liable if you are injured on a job site because of someone else’s failure to provide a safe working environment. We can help you manage your workers’ comp claim or hold the person who is responsible to keep a construction site safe and free of hazards liable for their negligence. The team of construction injury attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble has a strong record of success in obtaining settlements and verdicts for injured victims in New Jersey. Our attorneys are dedicated to providing compassionate representation as we guide you through the legal process. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation.