The residential building boom in big cities, such as Chicago is good news for both the construction industry and economy. However, with this upswing has come an increase of fatalities and injuries among construction workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, deaths from injuries on construction sites increased by 5 percent during 2014 to 874 deaths. The number of workers’ compensation claims filed by workers and their workers’ compensation lawyers for temporary and permanent injuries has risen to one million claims a year.
Risks for Construction Workers
Construction workers are exposed to various dangers on work sites. They are a risk for falls from ladders, scaffolds or roofs. Equipment malfunctions and mechanical failures or being hit from falling objects is a common cause of injuries and fatalities. There are 7.45 million construction workers in the United States. Out of this number, one-quarter of these workers are from foreign countries, which means a greater chance of language barriers.
Many injuries and fatalities can be traced back to a lack of construction oversight. To quickly recoup their debts, builders often rush to get construction jobs done to make a better profit. Because of this, workers are under pressure to cut corners and get jobs finished sooner.
Employers are required by law to provide proper safety gear and equipment to their workers. They are also required to provide safety training to all workers and in their native language. OSHA is responsible for monitoring 8 million work sites across the United States. However, the agency has fewer than 3,000 inspectors available to inspect work sites. With an average of 60 inspectors for each state, safety violations fall through the cracks.
How OSHA is Responding
Because of their shortfall in inspectors, OSHA is unable to visit every work site to make sure they are in compliance. To meet this challenge, OSHA analyzes data for the entire construction industry to spot national or local trends in certain types of accidents; for instance, falls or electrocutions. They will then shift their focus to those locations.
Once an employer has been found negligent, he is given two options. He may choose to fix the problem and pay a fine or request a hearing. If the employer is a repeat offender, his fine could be increased to $70,000 per violation. They may also be placed on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) watch list. The number of construction companies on the watch list increased to 257 in 2014, which is 23 percent increase from 2013.