By Andrew R. Bronsnick
Snow, ice and freezing rain are pretty much a given in New Jersey. Now that temperatures are dropping, darkness falls earlier and precipitation is always a concern, which is why the construction workers of New Jersey need to be aware of the injury risks they face when on a work site. Being forced to work during inclement weather can lead to falls, which is one of the industry’s biggest hazards.
Important Construction Accident Facts
OSHA reports that of the 4,693 worker fatalities in private industry in 2016, 991 or 21.1% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths. Thirty-four of that year’s construction fatalities occurred in New Jersey.
OSHA also reports the leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were:
- struck by object,
- caught-in or between hazards.
These “Fatal Four” were responsible for nearly two-thirds (63.7%) of the construction worker deaths in 2016. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 631 workers’ lives in America every year.
These hazards can be hidden or less conspicuous as the weather changes, but should be approached with the same deserved urgency as snow and rain. Bronsnick Law has successfully represented construction workers who have suffered injuries or fatalities on sites that were incorrectly assumed to be safe. Preparation is key to ensuring your safety. As you plan out your weeks (or days), consider the weather reports. Some resources to consult include:
National Weather Service. The National Weather Service’s Daily Briefing provides information on the weather outlook.
NOAA Weather Radio. A network of radio stations that continuously broadcast weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office.
Safety in Snow and Ice
Dressing properly can mitigate the risk of accident or injury in the aftermath of a snow or ice storm. As ice melts, appropriate footwear should be a requirement. Workers should wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (like insulated and water-resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads). Additionally, take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction. “Slow and steady” might not always be the most popular motto in the construction industry, but it is undoubtedly the smartest one.
Snow piles can create slushy puddles as the temperature rises. Though that may seem like common knowledge, we have represented many clients who have been injured on such spots, which are often concealed. This stems from negligent or misinformed supervisors, who should thoroughly inspect sites before allowing crews to get started.
But the hazards can be above your head as well as on the ground. It is crucial to inspect for the formation of icicles that can fall on personnel. Remove the icicles with care if that is possible. If the icicles cannot be removed, rope off the area so that no one works beneath them.
Construction workers who are injured on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation through their employer. The weather can be a factor if a supervisor puts you in harm’s way – like forcing you to work in the middle of a rainstorm or snowfall. The property owner of the construction site has a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of its workers. If mandatory safety measures were not in place (for example, railings were not installed to prevent falls), the property owner may be liable.