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Queens Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Construction workers' accidents continue to claim lives

New York construction workers risk injuries every day on a worksite. While there are constant additions and changes to the New York skyline, lives continue to be lost in construction workers' accidents. This problem has now become political.

Some believe that the country's unions are steadily eroding and that the importance of workplace safety is being left behind. When looking at the injury rate for construction workers over four years from 2011 to 2015, there was a 250 percent increase as per reports of the New York Department of Buildings. It was reported that 31 construction workers in the city lost their lives in the last two years.

Employees have right to work without fear of workplace accidents

Broken bones, cuts, bruises and even death all occur within the workplace. The average New York resident goes to work each day expecting to return home after earning that day's wages. While there, the worker does not usually expect to fall victim to one of the many workplace accidents that occur every year.

Workers in the state of New York have the right to work in a safe environment. If conditions appear to be unsafe but do not appear to present an immediate threat, the worker should notify the employer in written form. Then, if the employer fails to address the issue, the worker should notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are both state and federal laws in place that protect the worker from retaliation by the employer as the result of reporting hazardous conditions.

Lower back injuries: Can you rely on your employer's backing?

Along with all the billions of dollars that back injury claims cost industries in New York City and Long Island, they also cause employees pain and suffering that might be part of the rest of their lives. Authorities say the prevention of these injuries is a major safety challenge in different industries. Reportedly, a significant percentage of harm to workers' backs result from lifting, as material handling positions require employees to lift, place, carry, hold and lower heavy items as part of their daily jobs.

Workplace accidents: construction worker killed on the job

Working construction in New York can be a dangerous profession in spite of all the safety precautions most companies implement. Whether the result of a fall, faulty equipment or simply human error, workplace accidents can cause serious injuries or even lead to fatalities. This proved true for one construction worker who was recently killed on the job while working at a high school.

According to reports, the construction company was at the high school campus to conduct some external repairs. The primary focus of these repairs was the installation of brick cladding to the exterior of the building. The company indicated that this had been an ongoing project. Though reports do not reveal exactly how the accident happened, they do state that the victim was working with a boom lift when he died.

Serious workplace accidents can cause fatalities

New York residents employed in manufacturing positions likely know that the industry can be a dangerous place to work. Even with the numerous safety regulations enforced in the majority of businesses, workplace accidents still occur often. Unfortunately, these accidents can sometimes lead to fatalities. A recent accident at a packaging facility caused the deaths of three employees and injured several others.

The accident at the packaging plant occurred on Feb. 8, 2017 and resulted in an explosion. While investigators originally believed the explosion could have been caused by a fire, further review indicated that it was not. Reports note that the automatic valve of a tank was accidentally left unlocked. This caused the tank to fill with steam pressure for an extended time, leading to the explosion.

Workplace accidents: Engulfment by fertilizer kills 1 worker

Loading and unloading of any product can be hazardous. Workers in the agricultural industry in New York and other states may be very aware of engulfment hazards, and many might have lost coworkers in such workplace accidents. Deputies in another state recently reported the death of a worker who was engulfed by granular fertilizer.

Reportedly, a 50-year-old man and some coworkers were offloading fertilizer and directing it into a hopper -- a covered train car. Investigators will likely determine the exact circumstances, and initial reports were merely speculation. Reportedly, two workers were busy at the hopper when the fertilizer apparently stopped flowing because of lumps that formed due to the damp weather. Somehow, the one worker landed inside the hopper.

Workplace injuries: What is carpel tunnel syndrome?

New York employees who work in production lines in the manufacturing industry may be at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This is one of many workplace injuries that can develop over time, and it could be very painful. Workers at chicken processing plants are often victims of this injury that can be debilitating if left untreated.

The carpal tunnel protects the primary nerve that goes into the hand, along with the nine tendons required to bend fingers. Lubricating sheaths encase the tendons, and excessive repetition of hand movements can cause the lubrication system to malfunction. This can lead to friction in the carpal tunnel -- which is located in the wrist on the palm side -- that can cause painful swelling and inflammation. If not treated timely, fibrous tissues that will hamper the movement of the tendons can form.

Construction workers' accidents less prevalent in tall buildings

In New York, the city's building codes require significantly more safety for workers on the construction sites of buildings with 10 stories or more. Construction workers' accidents recorded from 2010 through 2015 totaled 1,446 -- leading to 40 fatalities. Seventy-five percent of those deaths occurred on construction sites of buildings that were lower than 10 stories tall. The Construction Safety Act was recently proposed before the City Council; in part, it addresses safety on construction sites of shorter -- or minor -- buildings.

The bill would address the fact that these minor sites previously required no site safety manager or safety coordinator. These individuals are typically New York City Department of Buildings licensed professionals who focus on site safety of taller buildings. Other safety rules that are not required for shorter buildings include site safety plans and the mandatory 10 hours of safety training that construction workers on taller buildings have to undergo -- as provided by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Construction workers' accidents: Mall roof collapses in New York

Sometimes, workplace accidents occur in which many lives could have been lost, but, miraculously, only minor injuries occur. One would think that such incidents would encourage a business owner to improve the company's safety protocols. However, after a recent roof collapse in New York, it became known that the out-of-state contractor had a record of four prior safety violations after construction workers' accidents since 2007.

This incident involved work that proceeded without the necessary permit on the roof of a shopping mall. Reportedly, the accident took place on a recent Wednesday, and the fire department called it a major collapse of the roof. However, authorities say an operator used a bobcat on the roof when it fell through into a store below. The operator of the bobcat and a passenger, along with four individuals in the store, suffered injuries that could have been fatal but turned out to be minor.

How many workplace accidents are truly "accidental"?

In a recent article, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration commented on the fact that any employee injury or death can always be linked back to a decision made by an employer or supervisor to do something or the neglect to do something. He said the recent dramatization of a 2010 oil rig explosion called Deepwater Horizon demonstrates how such tragedies come about. He emphasized that most workplace accidents in New York and elsewhere are not at all accidental, but preventable and predictable incidents.

Eleven rig workers lost their lives and 17 more suffered injuries in that explosion that occurred 40 miles off shore. He explained that the investigation into that disaster showed that the oil giant's efforts to bring about insignificant savings led to the loss of lives, traumatic injuries and subsequent losses of over $60 billion. Investigators could work back from the blast to the cause and determined that like most such tragedies, it was preventable.

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