Construction Accident Basics

Construction Worker Injuries

Every year, thousands of construction workers, in both the private and public sectors, risk their personal safety so that we all may enjoy the buildings and other structures that we use on a regular basis and sometimes take for granted. Construction workers understand the inherent danger of their work, but such dangerous conditions can be mitigated with effective safety regulations and safe construction equipment.

This article discusses the various types of construction accidents and types of construction worker injuries, further suggests various means through which both construction workers and their employers can mitigate the workers’ risk of injury, and identifies forms of potential legal compensation for injuries suffered on the job.

Construction Worker Injury Statistics

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is tasked with ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for working people by establishing and enforcing safety standards and providing research, training, education, outreach, and employer/employee assistance. OSHA has jurisdiction over most private sector employers and employees, as well as some public sector employers and employees in all 50 states and various territories under federal authority.

According to OSHA, 5,250 workers died on the job in 2018: on average, more than 100 a week or more than 14 deaths every day. OSHA has identified the so-called “Fatal Four;” in other words, the four most common causes of death on the job site:

  1. 1. Falls accounted for 338 out of 1,008 total deaths in construction in the calendar year of 2018 (33.5%).
  2. 2. Struck by Object. Being struck by an object accounted for 112 deaths (11.1%).
  3. 3. Electrocutions accounted for 86 deaths (8.5%).
  4. 4. Caught-in/between. Caught-in/between, including construction workers killed when caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material, accounts for 55 deaths (5.5%).

In the calendar year 2018, 1,008, or 21.1% out of 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry were in construction. As such, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction.

From a different perspective, OSHA has detailed the 10 most frequently cited standards violations in fiscal year 2018:

  1. 1. Fall protection – prevention of falls from platforms, elevated workstations or into holes.
  2. 2. Hazard communication standard – failure to communicate information about hazardous material in an understandable manner.
  3. 3. Improperly constructed scaffolding.
  4. 4. Inadequate respiratory protection.
  5. 5. Inadequate control of hazardous energy, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, and thermal energy.
  6. 6. Defective ladders or inadequate ladder safety training.
  7. 7. Defective or improper use of forklifts.
  8. 8. Inadequate training regarding fall protection.
  9. 9. Defective machinery and inadequate machine guarding.
  10. 10. Inadequate eye and face protection.

For construction workers, this information is likely not all that surprising. It is dangerous work. Still, it does not have to be as dangerous as it is. In fact, business owners have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment. According to the OSHA ACT of 1970, Section 5:

Each employer:

  1. 1. "Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; and
  1. 2. Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act." (29 U.S. Code § 654)

Furthermore, OSHA believes that progress is being made. Specifically, OSHA states:

  • “In more than four decades, OSHA and our state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety.
  • Worker deaths in America are [down on] average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 14 a day in 2017.
  • Worker injuries and illnesses are [down from] 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 in 2017.”


Types of Construction Accidents

Naturally, construction accidents come in a wide variety of types and severity. Some of the most common, aside from the “Fatal Four,” include:

  • Explosions and other types of burns.
  • Overexertion caused by long hours and/or hot and/or humid weather.
  • Accidents caused by dangerous material.
  • Slips and tripping.
  • Exposure to lead, asbestos, or other dangerous materials.
  • Machinery failures.


The wide variety of construction accidents is indicative of the inherent danger in and around construction sites. The average worker is typically preoccupied with doing a good job. Their focus tends to be on the job at hand, not the myriad of dangers surrounding them at any given moment.

Defective Equipment

Defective equipment is one of the leading causes of construction accidents, and is generally categorized as manufacturing defects, including lack of quality control and/or inferior materials, design defects, such as poor or lack of safety features, and defective warnings. These types of defects can be further compounded by lack of proper training, lack of proper upkeep and repairs, and poor documentation and/or maintenance procedures.

On a construction site, defects can critically affect essential equipment, such as scaffolding, forklifts, cranes, tools, and other machinery. Accidents caused by defective equipment are utterly blameless for the construction worker, yet it is the worker that suffers. Workers have a critical self-interest in reporting defective equipment to management, and management has an absolute duty to remove, replace or repair defective equipment. Simply eliminating this type of accident can make the workplace significantly safer.

Defective equipment is prevalent enough in the workplace (and other places, such as homes) that it warrants its own area of the law known as product liability, where legal responsibility arises for defectively manufactured products, even if the manufacturer did not fail to use due care or was not reckless. In other words, even if a manufacturer was not negligent in producing a product, if use of the product caused injury to the user, the manufacturer will still be liable for the user injury. In this, product liability is a species of a broader area of law known as strict liability.

To assign fault without intent or negligence is exceptionally rare in the law, demonstrating how seriously the law views defective equipment and the injuries or deaths such can cause.

Types of Construction Worker Injuries

The inherent dangers of construction work can be manifested by a wide variety of injuries, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries, typically from falls and sometimes resulting in paralysis.
  • Head or traumatic brain injuries.
  • Broken bones
  • Loss of hearing.
  • Loss of sight or various eye injuries.
  • Burns.
  • Sprains or various other joint injuries.
  • Cuts.
  • Abrasions.
  • Contusions.
  • Amputations.
  • Chronic lung disease.
  • Other health issues related to toxic exposure, and even
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Obviously, some of these injuries are profoundly serious, and many are literally life changing. The stakes regarding construction worker injuries simply could not be any higher. Therefore, it is incumbent upon both employers and employees to work together for the common safety of all. Almost literally, no precaution should be considered unnecessary.

How to Protect Yourself from Construction Accidents

Construction accidents are serious enough to take self-protection precautions beyond what workers may normally take. In other words, workers and management should adopt a “zero tolerance” for accidents, including:

  • Wearing bright and protective clothing and gear, including headgear (PPE).
  • Using scaffolding, ladders, forklifts, and other common construction equipment with extreme caution.
  • Avoiding positioning yourself underneath or between heavy machinery.
  • Making sure to follow all warning labels and policies.
  • Avoiding power lines to the absolute extent possible.
  • Being sure that first aid stations are plentiful and well-maintained
  • Being sure all workers are well-versed in CPR and other first aid techniques.
  • Conducting regular mandatory safety training.
  • Developing serious consequences for non-compliance.
  • Perhaps most importantly, use common sense.


It is important to understand that management and even co-workers may not all place a priority on safety. It is up to each individual to prioritize safety. Peer pressure can be a dangerous influence, but safety, both personally and collectively, should be every worker’s number one concern.

Construction Work Injury Claims

Construction workers may, despite even the strictest of precautions, suffer injuries on the job. Construction workers who suffer an injury on the job have legal options. These include workers’ compensation claims and civil lawsuits.

Workers’ compensation claims requirements vary from state to state, so injured workers need to investigate the rules of their own state, but all workers’ compensation claims have a couple of things in common. First, these claims are like strict liability claims, in that they do not generally require a person to prove that the employer was negligent, or otherwise caused the injury. If a person is injured during work, they may file a claim. Second, all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Individuals may also be entitled to file a legal claim in civil court. Again, the law varies from state to state, but generally civil claims are more difficult, but potentially more rewarding, than workers’ compensation claims. Typically, these legal claims take the form of negligence lawsuits, in which it must be proven that someone else had a duty to act in a safe manner regarding an activity, that this duty was breached by negligent activity, and that any injuries were caused by that breach of duty.

Nonetheless, remember that a valid product liability claim may be available if any injuries were the result of equipment that was defectively manufactured, defectively designed, or defectively marketed, with insufficient warnings. footer Add