While workplace safety has improved over the years, there are still various industries where bad things happen because companies cut corners to save money. In Colorado, some of the worst safety and injury offenses occur in the homebuilding industry, with construction workers facing higher rates of nonfatal injury than other workers do. In fact, construction laborers have the seventh highest rate of nonfatal injury and illness that required days away from work of all occupations. According to a recent Denver Business Journal report, accident frequency has steadily increased among construction workers along with the growth in new construction projects. This may be due to the explosive rise in homebuilding in the Denver metro region as area builders try to keep pace with the influx of new residents. Housing starts in the Denver area jumped 31 percent at the end of 2015, which represents the biggest jump in decades. But with all this building comes more injuries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, annually nearly 5,000 workers are killed on the job – that’s on average, almost 90 a week or more than 13 deaths every day. Of those, fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 17 percent of all fatal work injuries. Of these fatalities, nearly 21 percent were in the construction industry. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by electrocution, and being struck by an object. In fact, falls account for nearly 40 percent of all worker fatalities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 212,000 workers are seriously injured each year by falls in the workplace, with the construction industry leading the way in fatalities.
Recently the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined a Colorado homebuilder for excessive worker safety violations, including failing to properly secure worksites to prevent worker falls. “A fall can kill or seriously maim a worker. Builders and roofing companies must take responsibility for worker safety,” said David Nelson, OSHA’s Area Director in Englewood, Colorado. “Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Every employer is responsible for protecting workers on site. Providing fall protection is nothing new, and any employer in construction work is well aware of OSHA’s fall protection requirements.”
OSHA is also working with the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute safety violation offenders, and people are actually going to jail for doing things that are willfully unsafe in the workplace. “It’s a multi-generational effort to change a culture of unsafe workplace practice. To change that takes a long time,” says Thomas Ryan, founder and CEO of Lynch Ryan & Associates, a workers compensation management consulting firm. “On one hand we’ve come far, and on the other hand we still have a ways to go with keeping workers safe. We will always have this kind of problem.”
If you or a loved one were injured on the job and need help receiving the benefits you deserve, contact an expert Colorado workers compensation lawyer who can explain your rights and get you the compensation and medical care you are entitled to under the law.