Construction projects are common in late summer in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, construction is also one of the most dangerous industries in Massachusetts, not least of all because worker safety is not given as much attention as it should be. Common accidents on construction sites are falls from high places. These can be prevented with safety harnesses and other measures. However, sometimes an injury or fatality occurs not so much because of the height of the fall, but because of the impact of other items on the site—an injury resulting from crushing.
Recently, a Massachusetts man was working on top of a 12-16 foot wall. It was made up of forms that were being readied for concrete. It collapsed, crushing the man beneath wooden frames and rebar. His coworkers lifted the wall using heavy equipment, but it was too late. He had suffered a head trauma from the frames and rebar that proved to be fatal. His father, who was working on the job, too, collapsed. The paramedics were able to treat him.
A MassCOSH trainer explained that concrete wall construction is especially dangerous. The wall must be shored up adequately to prevent its collapse, particularly while it is being erected. When construction companies fail to ensure adequate shoring up or bracing, the company may face a “willful violation,” from the Massachusetts’ OSHA office. This is the most serious kind of violation that OSHA doles out to companies that have not followed safety standards.
This type of crushing accident, sadly, is not as rare as you would hope. In Connecticut earlier in July, a concrete retaining wall’s collapse, pinned a worker against a dump truck, seriously injuring him. In New Jersey, earlier in the year, three were injured when part of a modular building collapsed. In December of 2012, a crane collapsed killing a 38-year-old construction worker in New York’s Bronx.
Demolition presents many of the same dangers that construction does, including crushing. Tearing down a wall can be more difficult work than simply hitting it with a sledgehammer. The hazards from demolition include falling and crushing; they also sometimes include asbestos exposure, safe removal of items from a site, and routine back injuries.
Many of the injuries that occur on construction or demolition sites are preventable. OSHA has several guidelines for constructing and tearing down heavy walls. In addition to their guidelines, they also send out safety information bulletins related to particular types of especially dangerous work. For example, in the past, they have sent out informational bulletins about manually lifted balloon framed walls. These types of walls are those in which framed walls (often over 10 feet high) are lifted into place by the foremen and his workers. The danger occurs when the foremen or workers underestimate the number of workers and amount of force necessary to lift the wall and the wall falls back onto them. Workers can potentially wind up with broken bones, spinal injuries, cuts, and other major traumas.
If you have suffered a crushing or other type of injury on a construction or demolition site where you work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Contact the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates to figure out your next steps. Call us at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.
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Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Conditions, March 20, 2013
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