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Bay Area Construction Accidents Highlight Persistent Safety Issues

The dangers inherent in construction work make it one of the riskiest professions available. Because worksites use both heavy machinery and materials, when injuries happen, they are much more likely to be serious or even fatal. Two construction accidents occurred this summer that reveal the need for construction companies to implement, train and enforce safety procedures to protect workers.In June, two construction crew members were injured when while working on the Highway 4 widening project in Antioch, which was overseen by the California Department of Transportation. The men sustained minor injuries when either rebar or a retaining wall failed and collapsed on them.In August, four workers were hurt, three of them critically, at a San Francisco high-rise construction site. The workers were on the roof of the new building pouring concrete when the roof supports gave way, collapsing on the workers and causing them to plummet three stories.Though it is fortunate that no one lost their lives in either accident, the incidents emphasize the perils of construction work and the importance of safety inspections and education.

A Dangerous Job

Though construction workplace accidents have decreased nationally over a number of years, the industry still remains more dangerous than the national average. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in 2009, the construction industry experienced 9.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers, whereas the national average that year for all other occupations was 3.3 per 100,000 workers. That same year, the construction industry experienced 4.3 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 workers.The most common causes for both fatal and non-fatal injuries were falls, similar to the one taken by the four workers in San Francisco. In 2009, falls accounted for one third of all fatal injuries and 22 percent of non-fatal injuries. Transportation accidents were the second-most common reason for construction worker deaths and accounted for a quarter of all fatal injuries.

Current Safety Guidelines

Fortunately, the state of California requires all construction companies to follow certain safety procedures and practices. Three areas of law have particular application in the accidents in Antioch and San Francisco. To prevent injury from falls, the state requires that workers wear safety harnesses and use horizontal and vertical lifelines and safety nets when working on sites more than 15 feet off the ground. The state also requires the use of scaffolding when workers are unable to perform work duties from the ground or another “solid construction.” The scaffolding must be made of strong materials like wood and steel. In the case of the Antioch retaining wall accident, those workers should have been protected by regulations that require proper framing around a wet concrete wall to prevent it from collapsing on workers.

Construction Companies Responsible for Keeping Workers Safe

Though these laws are in place, it is the responsibility of construction companies to ensure that they are understood and followed at worksites. Companies should perform routine safety inspections of their construction sites to check for defects in equipment and ensure that workers are following safety protocols. In addition, companies should design safety education programs to help train their workers in construction safety. Implementing an easy-to-follow coding system for hazardous materials and logging safety inspections can also help keep workers safe.

Construction work is some of the most dangerous in the country. If you or a loved one has been injured while working on a construction site, please contact an experienced San Francisco construction accident attorney. A lawyer familiar with these types of workplace injuries can review your case and advise you of your rights and your options.

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