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While most workplaces are safe enough to avoid serious harms to employees, some industries and workplace environments pose serious threats to workers. Employees in construction, industrial, farming, and transportation jobs are particularly at risk for injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 4,500 employees die on the job in the U.S. every year and thousands more sustain serious injuries.
In spite of working in dangerous industries, employees still have the right to expect reasonably safe workplaces. It is up to employers to ensure the safety of an office or job site. While not all job-related injuries are grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, many are. If someone else’s negligence caused your incident, talk to the attorneys at Arash Law.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury Claims
In California, workers’ compensation laws allow employees to receive financial recovery for costs relating to workplace injuries. As long as the employee sustained the injury during work-related activities, and did not cause his/her own injuries with “horseplay” or similar negligence, the employee can receive workers’ comp benefits regardless of fault. Through this system, employees can receive payment for their medical costs, partial lost wages, and disability. They do not have to prove that the employer or another party was at fault to receive this compensation.
In a personal injury claim, the employee must have evidence of the defendant’s negligence. The defendant could be the employer, a co-worker, or a third party such as a product manufacturer. The courts will only award compensation if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant owed him/her a duty of care, breached this duty and that this breach caused the injury. It may be more difficult to bring a personal injury claim than a workers’ compensation claim, but the former typically results in greater compensation than the latter.
A personal injury lawsuit can result in recovery for all of your past and future medical bills and all lost wages, not just a fraction. If your injuries made it impossible to return to your previous job, the lawsuit will take lost earning capacity into account. You could receive an award for your catastrophic injury or disability, as well as any physical pain and emotional suffering. The courts might also award punitive damages if the defendant was grossly negligent in causing your accident. Consider both options carefully and speak to an attorney before you decide to file after a workplace accident.
Types of Workplace Accidents
The workplace can provide a host of opportunities for employee injuries. Loose carpeting in the office can lead to a trip and fall with broken bones. A faulty scaffold can collapse at a construction site, leading to a fatal fall. Workers in a manufacturing center could work with materials containing asbestos, leading to lung cancer years down the road. There is no end to the types of workplace injuries an employee could suffer. However, some types of accidents are more common than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common causes of workplace injuries are:
- Transportation incidents. Responsible for 2,054 out of 4,836 total workplace deaths in 2015 (26%). Almost half of these deaths involved a large truck. The most frequent vehicle involved in non-roadway deaths was a farm tractor (73 deaths).
- Falls, slips, and trips. There were 800 deaths related to this cause in 2015. Slips and falls can occur due to wet or greasy floors, uncovered holes in the floor, faulty staircases, and lack of personal fall protection when working from heights.
- Contact with objects and equipment. It accounts for 722 deaths in 2015. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reported “struck by object” as the second most-common cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for 9.6% of all construction deaths one year.
- Violence by people or animals. There were 703 violence-related occupational deaths in 2015. These incidents include attacks with or without weapons while performing work-related duties. Violence-related incidents often involve coworkers. Animal attacks can occur while employees work on an outdoor job site.
- Exposure to harmful substances. Employee exposure to chemicals and other dangerous substances led to 424 worker deaths in 2015. Exposure to chemicals can lead to immediate injuries and death, but it can also cause death over years of exposure. In California, you have two years from the date of discovery of injury to file a claim.
- Fires and explosions. These cases resulted in 121 fatal work injuries in 2015. The gas and oil industry puts workers at most risk of fires and explosions. Flammable vapors and gases from wells, trucks, and equipment can catch fire and seriously injure, disfigure, or kill workers.
Note that these statistics only account for worker deaths, not serious illnesses or injuries. Hundreds of more workers in America sustain minor to major injuries while performing workplace tasks. After any type of accident, request counsel from a personal injury attorney. There may be an employer, coworker, product manufacturer, driver, or another party to blame for your injuries or a loved one’s death. If this is the case, a civil lawsuit can result in the compensation you deserve.
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According to OSHA, construction is responsible for about one in five U.S. workers deaths every year. It is one of the deadliest industries in the country, taking an average of 13 lives every day. Construction is so dangerous because it involves heights, heavy machinery, electrical equipment, handheld tools, and motor vehicles. One simple mistake can be fatal in this high-stakes industry. If you think you know who is to blame for this mistake, you should consider filing a personal injury claim.
While not all construction accidents stem from negligence, most do. A poorly built scaffold, an unsecured tool, a lack of worker training, inadequate safety gear – these are all common examples of negligence that can lead to workplace injuries. The same OSHA report linked to above, regarding constructions “Fatal Four” lists these as the most common causes of death in this industry (excluding highway collisions):
- Falls. In 2015, 38.8% of worker deaths (364 out of 937 total deaths in construction) were from falls. OSHA cited violated standards regarding ladders, scaffolds, and construction sites in these incidents. Lack of personal fall protection was a major contributor to fall-related deaths. Failure to communicate about hazards was another significant problem.
- Struck-by objects. The second-most common cause took 90 lives in 2015, or 8.6%. These incidents occur due to improper securement of tools and materials while workers operate more than six feet off the ground. Wearing a helmet can help prevent fatal injuries in these events, but they cannot always save lives. Working more carefully and obeying OSHA standards is the best way to prevent dropped objects.
- Electrocutions. Construction workers often wield tools near power lines, running the risk of electrocution. They may also encounter live wires on the job, or have to handle electrical circuits and equipment. All of these workplace tasks can lead to electrocution without the proper care, training, and communication. For example, if one worker knew the wire was live but failed to say something in time to prevent his/her coworker from touching it.
- Caught-in/between. Workers can sustain serious and fatal injuries from getting caught in or between heavy machinery, objects, vehicles, and equipment. Construction deals with many large and dangerous machines such as backhoes, excavators, forklifts, and bulldozers. Getting caught in these items can lead to crush injuries, amputations, and death.
Preventing the fatal four could save hundreds of construction worker lives every year. Improving safety training, providing proper gear, and maintaining equipment at all times could help make a difference in this hazardous industry. If you have reason to believe that someone else’s negligence caused or contributed to your construction site accident, talk to an attorney at Arash Law.
Other Dangerous Industries
Aside from construction, America’s workers also face hazards in the form of industrial accidents, farm accidents, and crane accidents. Industrial disasters include incidents in the energy, food, manufacturing, and mining industries. Like construction jobs, industrial work often deals with heavy equipment. It takes a certain level of skill, safety, and training to operate this equipment without sustaining an injury. Chemical spills, equipment malfunctions, fires, and explosions are examples of tragedies that can occur in the industrial work sector.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 401 people died from farm-related injuries in 2015. An average of 113 young people (ages 20 and under) die in this industry every year. The most common causes of farm injuries and deaths are tractor overturns, machinery entanglements, objects striking workers, and animal-related injuries. Farmers also face a high risk of certain cancers, respiratory diseases, and illnesses from breathing in toxic chemicals like pesticides and grain and corn dust.
Cranes and hoists put hundreds of thousands of people at serious risk of injuries in construction and general industry jobs. Tower crane collapse, contact with power lines, crane overturns, dropped loads, falls, and rigging failures all contribute to the number of crane-related injuries and deaths. In every industry, adherence to OSHA rules and workplace standards would greatly improve worker safety. It is an employer’s duty to maintain a work environment that is free from unreasonable risks of harm to employees. Breaching this duty, resulting in worker injury or death, is negligence.
Every employer is legally responsible for the safety and health of his or her employees. Organizations like OSHA and others impose federal standards on the American workplace. The accepted standards of employee care differ across industries, but the mission remains the same – to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Employers must make a real effort to guarantee a safe work environment. This includes ensuring proper employee training, safety gear, emergency protocols, spill clean-up procedures, and other ways to keep employees safe.
Any failure to maintain a safe workplace, resulting in employee injury or death, is negligence on the part of the employer, company, or manager. The injured party or his/her surviving family members may bring a claim against the party responsible for the unsafe condition. In some employment injury cases, the employer is not the defendant. A defective product, coworker, criminal, or a third party caused the injury. Talk to our attorney for assistance naming the defendant(s) in your particular case.
Speak to an Experienced Work Injury Attorney in LA
Arash Law is passionate about protecting America’s workers. No matter what your job, industry, or circumstances of your accident, speak with us during a free consultation. You have nothing to lose in talking to one of our workplace injury attorneys, and potentially thousands of dollars to gain. We’ve won multi-figure settlements and verdicts for our clients in the past. We may be able to get you the compensation your injuries or disabilities deserve. Call (888) 488-1391 to get in touch today.