Construction workers face daily dangers on job sites, but those involving struck-by hazards are likely to prove fatal. An employee who does not check his path before revolving a backhoe or a simple shift in the wind can send hundreds of pounds of force into a passing worker—and these kinds of scenarios are unfortunately common. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that thousands of workplace deaths per year occur due to sudden contact with objects and equipment, also known as struck-by accidents.
Kinds of Struck-By Accidents on Construction Sites
While being hit by falling debris is a common cause of construction accidents, struck-by injuries are slightly different. They occur when a worker is struck as a result of a force other than gravity, such as when an object is propelled or driven. The most common objects involved in struck-by injuries include:
- Vehicles. Over half of all struck-by injuries that result in death are caused by heavy equipment, such as trucks, tractors, rail cars, loading vehicles, and cranes. Vehicles can roll over workers, strike a head or limb, or pin a worker between the vehicle and another object. Employers are required to follow strict safety practices to prevent these kinds of accidents, including training employees to recognize common hazards when operating powered vehicles on a job site. Workers should never drive in reverse when the rear view is obstructed without another worker directing his way. Parking brakes should be used on all vehicles and the wheels must be chocked if the vehicle is parked on an incline. Lack of visibility is a common factor in collisions, so sites must be properly designated with barricades, lighted signage, or flaggers when working near roadways. In addition, workers and visitors to a site must wear high-visibility clothing that can be easily seen at any time of the day or night.
- Flying objects. Workers may be struck by flying objects that have been shot, thrown, sprayed, or otherwise propelled across their path. Flying object hazards include particles (such as sandblasting residue), discharged items (such as a nail from a nail gun), or force reactions (such as splinters from prying up old wood). Objects can also cause injury if a piece of material separates from a tool or machinery due to defects or sudden impact. Nearly any action, including pushing, pulling, kicking, or just flipping a switch can cause objects to become airborne. Eye injuries are the most common effect of flying particles, but debris can also cause abrasions, head injuries, lung damage, or death. Employers are required to ensure that workers are equipped with safety goggles or face shields that provide adequate protection for the kind of work being performed. All tools that commonly eject debris (such as lathes and grinders) should be inspected regularly and be equipped with protective guards. Compressed air should only be used by workers who have protective equipment, and should never be used to clean clothing or areas involving food or toxic chemicals.
- Swinging objects. Any material that is loaded and lifted by construction equipment has a potential to swing through the air and strike a worker. Cranes are especially likely to cause these kinds of accidents, as loaded objects can swivel or twist during operations—especially on windy days. These accidents can occur even when no load is being lifted, such as workers being struck by swinging backhoes, counterweights on excavators, or even opening doors. If there is significant power behind the strike, an employee may suffer broken bones or fall onto another level, leading to further injuries.
In many cases, employers could have done more to prevent these injuries from occurring. If you have suffered as a result of a struck-by construction accident you need to speak with an experienced construction injury attorney as soon as possible. The New York injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can explain your options at no cost to you. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free initial consultation.