Safety Rules and Legal Action: Understanding Your Legal Protections

More than 21,000 workers in the construction and extraction industry suffered nonfatal injuries due to slips and falls in 2020 alone, and 345 people were killed. Construction sites have inherent dangers, and even with the regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers get injured every day. If you’re one of those victims, the first step is to ensure that you understand the safety regulations in the industry and what legal rights you have to recover compensation for your injuries.

Construction Site Accidents: The Risks and Statistics

Construction site accidents happen on a regular basis, and knowing the most common ways workers are injured or killed can help you better understand how to protect yourself. Below are some noteworthy statistics relating to accidents in the construction industry:

• More than 1,000 construction workers are killed every year

• Most fatal slips and falls happen to specialty trade contractors followed by those working in building construction

• 40% of injuries sustained in construction accidents require missing time from work

• The average time an injured construction worker missed as a result of an injury was 11 days

• OSHA levies an average of $102.7 million in penalties every year

• Failure to provide fall protection is the most common OSHA citation in the construction industry

• 21% of workers killed in the United States are employed in the construction industry

Construction is a rewarding profession, but it’s also challenging — and dangerous. When employers fail to provide proper protection equipment, safety standards, and safety training programs, they put their workers at risk of serious injury or even death.

California Safety Regulations for Construction Sites and Workers

The California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health, more commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA, is responsible for creating safety regulations for construction sites and workers in the Golden State. There are hundreds of individual guidelines to ensure worker safety at construction sites, but below are a few widely applying examples:

• Employers are required to identify the hazards of any chemicals employees may be exposed to and provide that information to the employees

• Employers are required to have a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program that identifies someone in charge of the program, includes a compliance system, and explains how safety issues will be communicated to all employees.

• When work is being done in a confined space, the employer must meet regulations for ensuring that employees aren’t exposed to dangerous air contaminants and that they have the oxygen they need.

• Employers are required to provide and ensure that employees use proper fall restraint systems when necessary, such as lifelines and suspended scaffolds

• Employers are required to take proper safety precautions when employees are working in environments that leave them susceptible to heat illness per the Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez heat illness standard

If you believe that your injuries were sustained as a result of an employer’s negligence or refusal to abide by Cal/OSHA regulations, speak to an attorney about your options.

Employer’s Responsibility When an Accident Occurs

As soon as an employer has been made aware that an accident has occurred on a construction site, they are responsible for reporting it to Cal/OSHA. They must provide information related to the accident, including where and when it occurred, who was involved, what injuries the victim suffered, and at what health care facility the victim was treated at.

If your injuries do not require emergency medical treatment, your employer should provide a list of approved health care providers so you can seek care as soon as possible. It’s important that you only see an employer-approved provider unless it’s for emergency treatment, as workers’ compensation may not cover the bills otherwise.

Rights of Injured Construction Workers

California’s workers’ compensation laws ensure that construction workers have certain rights. First and foremost, you have the right to seek medical treatment. An employer cannot stop you from getting medical treatment for your injuries or penalize you in any way for doing so.

You also have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim if your injuries were the result of an accident at work. Employers in California are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance for all eligible employees.

Injured construction workers have the right to appeal any decisions made by either the employer or its insurance company. This includes if a workers’ compensation claim was denied.

Lastly, you have the right to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to represent you. Having legal representation from the beginning may help you get your workers’ compensation benefits more quickly and ensure that your employer and the insurance company are operating in accordance with California law.

What to Do After You’ve Been Injured in an Accident

The most important thing to do after you’ve been injured in a construction site accident is seek medical treatment. Your health and safety are important, and this isn’t the time to “power through.” Once your injuries are identified and your condition is stable, it’s time to talk with a construction accident attorney. If someone you love was killed in a construction accident, a wrongful death lawsuit may apply.

When you’ve been injured in a construction site accident, you need to know your rights and legal options. At Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell, A Professional Corporation, we help victims understand how the workers’ compensation system works in California and what they need to do to ensure they are adequately compensated for their injuries. Call 626-208-9906 to find out what your next steps should be.