Confined spaces are a significant threat to the lives and safety of New York City construction workers. In addition to suffering injuries while crawling into and out of tight spaces, workers risk suffocation, cave-ins, and other deadly accidents each time they enter a confined space.
What Is a Confined Work Space?
A confined space may be big enough for an employee to fit in, but is not designed for continuous occupancy and has a limited means of entry or exit. Some spaces may be large enough for several workers, while others may be barely big enough for one person to fit inside. On a construction site, an employee may enter a confined space in order to install fittings, perform inspections or air quality testing, or nearly any other daily work activity.
Workers may be injured inside all types of confined spaces, including:
- Utility areas such as manholes, sewer and water pipelines, vaults, pumping stations, and storm drains
- Access tunnels, trenches, crawl spaces, pits, and shafts necessary to complete construction
- Tanks such as septic tanks, degreasing tanks, and cisterns
- Storage containers including bins, carts, or silos
- Large appliances such as boilers or furnaces
Common Causes of Construction Injuries in Confined Work Spaces
Confined spaces are not just hazardous because they are difficult to escape in an emergency, they can also injure workers who remain inside them for an extended period of time. To make matters worse, employees are often killed as they attempt to rescue a co-worker who has lost consciousness or become trapped in a confined space, doubling the number of fatalities in an accident.
The most common reasons employees are injured in confined work areas include:
- Asphyxiation. If there is no forced ventilation into the space, an employee may be deprived of oxygen as he works.
- Toxic chemicals. Toxic substances, such as welding fumes, carbon monoxide, or solvents, can fill small spaces quickly, pushing out breathable air and causing workers to lose consciousness.
- Fires and explosions. If combustible gases or particles enter the space and meet an ignition source, workers may suffer third-degree burns or be killed in the explosion.
- Electrocution. A metal tank or vault may come into contact with a live wire, electrocuting workers inside.
- Temperature extremes. If the space is located in an area with extremely high or low temperatures, a worker may suffer injuries due to freezing or heat stress.
- Collapses. If a confined space does not have strong walls, ceilings, or floors, the space may cave in around a worker as ground levels shift.
- Engulfing accidents. Below-ground structures can be flooded with water, sand, or sewage, while empty solos may suddenly fill with grain or coal, suffocating workers within.
- Entrapment. The space itself may have steep sides, exposed blades or gears, or other features that make it impossible for a worker to escape in an emergency.
- Wrongful death. Unfortunately, many confined space accidents are fatal to construction workers, forcing their families to struggle with overwhelming personal and financial losses.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Confined Space Work Injury?
Most confined space accidents are completely preventable, and the person responsible for the deadly factors that lead to an injury can face charges of negligence. If a worker’s injuries were due to an unsafe work environment, contractors, construction managers, and property owners may be held accountable. However, if the accident was a result of faulty equipment, the manufacturer of the defective product could be liable for the worker’s lost income, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
If you or someone you love was injured while working on a New York City construction site, you may be able to file an injury lawsuit in addition to collecting workers’ compensation. Our attorneys can examine the facts of your case, perform a thorough investigation, and work to get you the compensation you deserve. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with an injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today.