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Accidents Caused by Faulty (or Missing) Safety Equipment

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The risk of accidents and injuries in industries requiring manual labor generally is higher than in those requiring merely sedentary labor, but that risk is especially pronounced in the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction workers suffer 2.4 nonfatal injuries per 100 workers each year, compared to only 0.2 per 100 in the finance and insurance industries. While safety equipment can prevent most construction-related injuries, it is not foolproof. Employers bear the responsibility of providing and maintaining safety equipment for their workers, as well as ensuring that workers use it properly. Unfortunately, not all employers take this duty as seriously as they should, which can lead to accidents and injuries due to faulty or missing safety equipment. If you have been injured in a construction accident caused by a safety equipment issue, please contact a Suffolk or Nassau County workplace accident attorney at our firm

Safety Equipment-Related Accidents and Injuries Are Extremely Common

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency that implements workplace safety protocols and investigates any violation thereof. Of the top 10 most commonly cited OSHA standards violations, six are related to safety equipment failures, including the #1-ranked fall protection:

  1. Fall protection (29 CFR 1926.501)
  2. Hazard communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) 
  3. Respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134)
  4. Fall protection — training requirements (29 CFR 1926.503)
  5. Eye and face protection (29 CFR 1926.102)
  6. Machinery and machine guarding (29 CFR 1910.212)

Safety equipment failures happen for a variety of reasons. To cut costs, some employers may continue to use safety equipment well beyond its useful life, thereby diminishing its effectiveness and causing injuries. Many employers also fail to educate their workers on the importance of using safety equipment or fail to implement their own policies requiring certain safety equipment to be worn. And in some cases, workers who have become complacent about the risk of injuries in their workplaces intentionally forgo safety equipment, often with disastrous consequences. 

Employers Have a Duty to Provide and Maintain Safety Equipment

The duty to provide workers with a generally safe and healthy working environment, including providing and maintaining adequate safety equipment, falls on employers. OSHA’s General Requirements impose a wide range of safety-related obligations on employers. Some examples of those requirements are listed below.

  • Employers must assess their workplaces to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of safety equipment
  • Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, must be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition
  • Employers must provide safety equipment at no cost to employees (in most cases)
  • If employees bring their own safety equipment, employers are responsible for assuring its adequacy and maintaining it
  • Defective or damaged safety equipment is prohibited
  • Employers must provide training to each employee who is required to use safety equipment

If you have been injured due to the failure of your employer to provide or maintain adequate safety equipment in violation of a legal duty, you should consider speaking to a workplace injury attorney who can help you evaluate your options. 

Liability for Accidents Caused by Faulty or Missing Safety Equipment

Workers who are injured due to faulty or missing safety equipment have several options available to them. 

OSHA Complaint 

Perhaps the easiest way to hold employers accountable for faulty or missing safety equipment — especially if the problem is widespread or ongoing — is to file a complaint with OSHA. Generally, an OSHA complaint takes the form of a written, signed document by an employee that includes enough detail to enable OSHA to determine that an OSHA violation exists that threatens physical harm. The physical harm also could have occurred in the past as the result of a hazard that still exists. Alternatively, the complaint can allege an imminent danger. Whatever the situation, once OSHA determines that the complaint’s allegations are sufficient to establish a violation, it will investigate the employee’s claims. It can do this either over the phone or through an on-site investigation. Workers who file OSHA complaints may request to have their names withheld from their employers. If found to be in violation, employers can face stiff financial penalties.

Workers’ Compensation

Depending upon the severity of the incident, an OSHA complaint may not be sufficient to fully rectify the situation, such as when a worker is seriously injured and unable to work due to faulty or missing safety equipment. The workers’ compensation program provides a set of benefits to workers who suffer work-related injuries (i.e., those that occur within the scope of the worker’s employment). These benefits include: 

  • Medical benefits: Workers’ compensation provides medical benefits up to the full costs of the injured employee’s necessary medical treatment
  • Cash benefits: Qualifying claimants are eligible to receive a certain percentage of their average weekly wage in cash benefits
  • Death benefits: Families of workers who die as a result of a work-related injury are entitled to death benefits for a certain period of time

Third-Party Lawsuit

Workers who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits (which includes almost all public- and private-sector employees) generally may not sue their employers for injuries sustained on the job, even if the injury was due to the employer’s negligence. In most cases, workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy available to injured workers. However, an injured worker may initiate a third-party lawsuit against parties who were at fault for their accident. This could occur, for example, where the failure of the safety equipment was due to a design or manufacturing defect. In that case, the injured worker could pursue a third-party lawsuit for products liability against the manufacturer or seller of the defective safety equipment. 

Turley, Redmond & Rosasco  Can Help You Seek Compensation

If you have suffered an injury due to faulty or missing or missing safety equipment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, among other remedies. We can be reached at 1-800-671-4927 or online. Our workers compensation lawyers look forward to helping you recover your just workers’ comp benefits and have convenient office locations in Manhattan, Suffolk County (Shirley and Ronkonkoma) and Nassau County (Garden City).  

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