Firm-Wide blog

Construction Work is as Dangerous as it is Diverse

By Burg Simpson
August 8, 2017
6 min read

With a jobless rate of just 2.4 percent, Colorado boasts the fourth-lowest construction unemployment rate in the country. Construction workers have been in high demand in Colorado for years, fueled by a robust housing market with increasingly high demand and low inventory.

It is a sector that shows no signs of slowing down, either. Analysts expect employment in the construction trade to climb at least 10 percent nationwide between now and 2024 – a faster clip than any other occupation.

Who are Construction Workers and What is the Risk?

While most people think of construction workers as the ones with the hard hats hammering away in new housing developments, there is actually a lot more to it than that. The industry includes commercial, industrial, and residential construction, as well as engineering developments such as roads and bridges.

The highest number of construction workers – nearly a quarter of the total – work in just a handful of trades:

  • Carpenters: These workers build and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports.
  • Laborers. These are the people on construction sites who perform the bulk of the physical work — such as digging, building, unloading, clearing, and helping the tradesmen.
  • Managers: These employees are on-site supervisors. Specifically, managers who plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.
  • Electricians: These skilled workers install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.
  • Equipment operators: Construction equipment operators drive and control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other buildings.

While the construction industry enjoys a low unemployment rate, it is an occupation that also suffers a higher rate of on-the-job accidents. Despite making up 4 percent of the country’s total workforce, more than 20 percent of all workplace accidents happen on construction sites. Over the course of a 45-year career, according to Safety + Health magazine, a construction worker has a 75 percent chance of suffering a disabling injury. If you have found yourself in this group, you need to look into Colorado’s workers’ compensation. Call one of our Colorado workers’ comp lawyers to help you through this complex process.

Falls are the most common – and the deadliest – construction site accidents. About 40 percent of construction fatalities are a result of falls. Its little wonder since on-site fall protection is the most-violated OSHA standard. Roofers are particularly vulnerable to these types of accidents and it should be no surprise that they are some of the most severe injuries that occur in the workplace. Head trauma that is not properly treated can disable a worker for life, yet all too frequently the clinics employed by the insurance carriers or employers fail to properly diagnose and treat this portion of the injury in the early stages of the claim.

Other leading causes of construction site deaths are electrocutions (8.5 percent of fatalities), struck-by-object accidents (8.4 percent of fatalities), and caught in/between-object fatalities (1.4 percent of deaths).

Road Construction Workers High Rate of Risk

As any Denver driver can tell you after even the shortest of commutes, construction workers can be found just about anywhere in the metro area, working on the state’s roads and bridges. These tireless workers brave the worst weather Colorado has to offer, constant dust and exhaust fumes, along with heavy machinery.

While there are a variety of positions in the road construction business, they tend to fall in one of a few categories:

  • Laborers: These workers are responsible for the bulk of roadway operations, such as cleaning and preparing the sites, managing traffic around the site as well as setting up barricades.
  • Construction equipment operators: These trained professionals operate the heavy road work machinery, such as trench excavators, pavers, and road graders. These workers also handle machine maintenance and some minor repairs.
  • Cement masons: These workers place and finish the concrete. They also set the concrete forms, and install the rebar and other reinforcement material.
  • Road supervisors: Supervisors oversee construction projects by assigning tasks, managing workers and material, and monitoring job progress. Supervisors are also responsible for maintaining a safe worksite.

Working on the road poses an obvious danger: vehicles passing by constantly, sometimes at high speeds. A single mistake – by either a distracted driver or an inattentive road worker – can be fatal. That constant threat has been on the rise in recent years. Work zone auto accidents are up 42 percent since 2013. A work zone accident happens about every five minutes in the United States. Car accidents in work zones hurt 70 workers every day. Speeding and alcohol use were the two biggest contributors to work zone fatalities, based on the latest numbers. If someone’s negligence behind the wheel led to an accident that has caused you to miss time from work, seek legal help by contacting a Colorado work comp attorney at Burg Simpson today. Overall, roadway worker fatalities are down over the last decade, but they are still all too common. The primary causes of roadside workers fatalities are:

  • Runovers/backovers: Nearly half of all road workers are killed when a vehicle – typically a dump truck – runs or backs over them.
  • Vehicle collisions: These are the second most frequent cause of death for road workers, responsible for 14 percent of worksite fatalities.
  • Caught in between or struck by object incidents: Like their construction worker brethren, roadside workers are at high risk of being caught in between or by an object or piece of construction equipment. While these events lead to 14 percent of on-the-job fatal accidents, they have actually been on the decline over the past few years.

The last thing a construction worker can afford – aside from steep medical bills – is time away from work. Most construction workers do not have the time or ability to navigate Colorado’s workers’ compensation law. If you have been hurt while on the job or lost a loved one to a workplace accident, speak with one of our attorneys as soon as possible. Call a Burg Simpson Colorado workers’ comp lawyer at 303-792-5595 or fill out a free case evaluation form for help now.

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