People falling on and around construction sites has been a problem for a very long time. OSHA reports that 291 of the fatalities that occurred on construction sites in 2013 were falls. Throughout its literature, OSHA insists that slip and fall accidents on construction sites are preventable, but the problem still does not go away.
Construction safety is always a concern whenever a new construction site opens up, but there are times when pedestrians and non-construction workers need to know their legal options if they are ever part of a construction accident.
Delivery Man Falls On A Construction Site
A very good example of what can happen on a construction site to non-construction workers occurred in December 2016 when a delivery man bringing supplies to a construction site fell down a 20-foot hole. It took firefighters a while to safely extract the delivery man from the hole, and then paramedics rushed him to Bellevue Hospital. None of his injuries are expected to be life-threatening.
As that delivery man recovers in the hospital, he has to consider his legal options in terms of getting compensated for lost wages, injuries, and any medical bills he may incur. The problem in a slip and fall case on a construction site is that responsibility and the focus of legal action is not always a black and white issue.
The Contractor’s Responsibilities On Site
In general, construction companies have a long list of activities they have to engage in to make their work sites safe. OSHA requires companies to make sure that workers and pedestrians are protected while work is going on. Part of the protection includes that all job sites are kept clean and obstacles are removed, that all workers are provided the proper safety equipment, and that safety training is an ongoing process. Even though it sounds like OSHA has all of the protection bases covered, but this does not prevent construction accidents from happening.
While following OSHA guidelines can prevent construction companies from being fined or shut down, it does not absolve them of the legal responsibilities that come with running a job site. There are still the issues of making sure that workers and the general public are made aware of potential hazards, that pedestrians are given safe ways to pass by a job site without getting injured, and that any issues with the site itself that could create safety hazards are also pointed out and addressed. Once an accident occurs, companies and victims have several legal options they can utilize to protect themselves and get the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
The Legal Process Once An Accident Occurs
The four major parties involved in any construction work site accident are the victims, the general contractor, the job owner, and any subcontractors. In most cases, general contractors will be brought into a lawsuit that involves the actions of a subcontractor, which is why general contractors monitor their subcontractors closely. But before the legal process can begin in a slip and fall case on a construction site, the role of each of these four parties has to be established.
Did the victim ignore the signs and barriers that were clearly visible throughout the work site? Was the victim an expected guest on the job site, or were they trespassing? In some cases, a victim who was trespassing can still sue a general contractor for injuries due to a fall. But there are several considerations to take into account before absolving the victim of any responsibility.
The General Contractor
What are the safety responsibilities of the general contractor as outlined by the project contract? Are there special safety considerations the general contractor has to follow that were not followed? Is the general contractor responsible for pedestrian safety? The project contract does not list basic safety requirements because those are understood throughout the industry. But when it comes to the security of the property and the surrounding areas, sometimes the general contractor is not responsible for monitoring and protecting those areas.
Did the project owner reveal all of the potential safety hazards on the property to the general contractor? Is the property owner contractually bound to protect pedestrians and offer safety protection for certain parts of the job site? When it comes to the legal options available to victims of job site falls, property owners are not automatically immune.
Did the fall occur in an area where a subcontractor was working? Was the general contractor properly monitoring the activities of its subcontractors? When Sky Materials was indicted for manslaughter as a subcontractor on a site where a worker was killed, the general contractor Harco Construction was also indicted. General contractors must always be aware of the actions of their subcontractors, especially in the areas involving safety.
The legal responsibilities for preventing falls on construction sites are not always easy to determine. Any victim of a construction job site fall should hire an experienced attorney to determine which party was ultimately responsible for what happened.