Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

In some Georgia workers’ compensation claims, injured employees may receive benefits for emotional injuries as well as physical injuries. In a recent case, one state’s appeals court considered a psychiatric injury claim after a construction site accident.

In that case, the construction worker was operating a soil compactor on a hill, and the compactor rose up in the air, causing it to fall backwards on top of the worker. The worker filed for workers’ compensation benefits, and the workers’ compensation judge found the worker sustained a back injury and a psychiatric injury.

Under that state’s law, since the worker had worked at his job for less than six months, his psychiatric injury was compensable if it was caused by a “sudden and extraordinary employment condition.” Courts interpreted that standard to mean that the event was not a routine physical injury but instead was an event that would be expected to cause a psychiatric injury, such as an explosion or workplace violence. The worker was required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the event was “something other than a regular and routine employment event or condition” and that the event “was uncommon, unusual, and occurred unexpectedly.”

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Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued several new citations to a construction company that was remodeling a building when it collapsed, killing one employee and trapping another inside the wreckage for several hours. According to an industry news report, the building collapsed back in December of last year, but OSHA’s investigation has only recently been completed.

Evidently, the company instructed employees to take down two load-bearing walls without specifying how to install a temporary support structure for the rest of the building. As the employees knocked down the walls, the building collapsed. One man was killed in the collapse, and another woman was trapped for several hours before emergency responders were able to free her.

In the most recent citations, OSHA claims that the company “willfully ignored precautions,” which directly resulted in the death of the employee. The OSHA report also indicates that the company failed to take necessary precautions in conducting an engineering survey prior to beginning the work. These citations were in addition to a previous round of citations that was issued earlier this year. The company was fined a total of more than $200,000, and it may face additional liability should the employees and their families file subsequent claims.

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For those whose profession requires that they occasionally work on the side of Georgia highways, it will come as no surprise to hear that the shoulder of a road is a dangerous place to be. In fact, it is estimated that upwards of 400 deaths per year are caused by accidents occurring on road shoulders across the country.

Over the past several years, every state has enacted its own version of a “Move Over Law,” which requires motorists to slow down or give room to emergency vehicles and workers on the road’s shoulder. While each state’s law is slightly different, most laws require motorists to accommodate police, firefighters, emergency responders, tow-truck drivers, accident clean-up crews, and other state transportation workers.

Georgia’s move over law was enacted in 2003 and requires drivers to move over when emergency vehicles are present. If it would be illegal or impossible to change lanes, the driver must slow down to a “reasonable and proper speed,” given the current road conditions.

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Earlier this month, a New Jersey man was killed when he was struck by a piece of construction equipment while on a New York job-site. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, at around 4:20 in the afternoon a load fell off a crane at the construction site and struck the worker. Immediately after the accident, the worker was alert, but shortly after that he started experiencing pain and having difficulty breathing. Within the hour, he was dead.

The construction company that employed the worker has told reporters that it will fully cooperate with any government investigation into what caused the fatal construction accident. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation. The representative from OSHA told reporters that the investigation may take as long as six months to complete.

Georgia Construction Accidents

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous in Georgia. Whether it be the heavy equipment, the towering heights, or the long hours resulting in worker fatigue, construction workers face many risks every day. According to the most recent numbers, Georgians suffer approximately 4,500 workplace accidents each year. Of these, a significant portion occur in the construction industry.

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Earlier this year in October, a pipeline explosion in Shelby County, Alabama claimed one man’s life and injured several others. In a recent news update, one of the men injured in the explosion has died from his injuries, increasing the death toll to two.

Evidently, the explosion occurred when an excavator for a Georgia-based construction company struck an underground transmission pipeline when using a backhoe. The pipeline, which was carrying gasoline, burst and began to leak. The gas ignited, causing a small fire. At the time, one man was pronounced dead and five others taken to area hospitals. One of the five injured men was hospitalized until recently, when he passed away from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.

A local ABC affiliate reported that the construction company has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) eight times between the years of 2009 and 2013. These violations all occurred on job sites in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. In fact, five of those violations were considered “serious” by OSHA, and three directly involved the company’s excavation work.

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Earlier this month in Miami, Florida, one man died and five others were injured when scaffolding that had been erected adjacent to a Miami high-rise collapsed. According to one local news report covering the tragedy, the man who died actually suffered from a cardiac arrest as he was running from the falling debris. Another woman below was injured when the scaffolding landed on her car. In addition, two construction workers working on the project were seriously injured by the falling scaffolding.

Bystanders told reporters that suddenly and without apparent reason, the scaffolding started to collapse. Wooden planks and metal rods were strewn on the ground below as emergency responders attempted to get medical attention to those in need.

Georgia Workplace Injuries

Employers are responsible to create a safe workplace for their employees. However, despite best efforts, sometimes accidents happen. Thankfully, in Georgia, injured workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in relation to their job, regardless of whose fault the injury is. In the above example, it would seem clear to most that the construction workers injured due to the falling scaffolding were injured in the course of their employment and should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, should they need them. However, the workers’ compensation program is essentially an insurance system, and a claim requires approval before benefits can be paid out. In some cases, even seemingly meritorious claims are rejected, delaying and potentially preventing injured workers from obtaining benefits.

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