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Construction safety violations and worker deaths soared in 2019

Construction sites in Pennsylvania and around the country can be very dangerous places, and figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that efforts to improve safety have been largely ineffective. According to the agency’s National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, fatalities in the private construction sector rose by 5% in 2019, totaling 1,061. That is the largest construction worker death toll in more than a decade. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with reducing workplace accidents, and it has identified the leading causes of injury and death for construction workers.

Dangerous heights

Falls have long been the leading cause of construction site accidents and deaths. OSHA regulations require employers to install fall protection systems like guardrails and scaffolds when workers perform their duties 6 or more feet off the ground, but these rules are often ignored by developers with strict deadlines to meet. Between October 2018 and September 2019, regulations dealing with fall protection and scaffolding at construction sites accounted for two of the three most commonly violated OSHA safety standards.


The fourth most commonly violated OSHA safety standard during the 2019 fiscal year addresses lockout procedures to protect workers from electrocution. These violations could explain why electrocution is the second leading cause of death on construction sites. The BLS workplace fatality report does not include data about fall-related deaths, but it does reveal that 167 construction workers lost their lives in 2019 after coming into contact with electricity or other harmful environments in the workplace.

Workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits

Those injured in construction worker accidents usually submit workers’ compensation claims to help them to cope financially while they recover, but they may also file personal injury lawsuits against their employers in certain situations. Workers’ compensation programs were implemented in part to shield employers from this kind of litigation, but attorneys with experience in this area may explain that exceptions are made in cases involving gross negligence. This is recklessness so extreme that it made death or serious injury inevitable. In lawsuits filed on behalf of injured construction workers, attorneys may argue that ignoring safety regulations designed to prevent the most common causes of accidents and deaths amounts to gross negligence.


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