Falling debris is one of the most common causes of injury or death at construction sites, following closely behind falls and exposure to harmful substances or environments. According to the National Safety Council, the construction industry is one of the top industries for worker injury or death, ranking in the top four along with education and health services; transportation and warehousing; and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.
If you suffer an injury from falling debris while working for a construction company, contact a construction accident attorney in NYC. You may have options for a worker’s compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Keep reading to learn more about how falling debris injuries happen.
Common Injuries from Falling Debris at Construction Sites
Falling debris can pose a hazard to both passersby and construction workers wearing the appropriate protective gear. Items with enough weight or falling from an especially high area have enough momentum to cause concussions, neck injuries, or death, even if you’re wearing a hard hat. Injuries from falling debris can include:
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Deep lacerations or impalement
- Broken bones
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Disability including paralysis or limb amputation
These injuries can result in time away from work, lost wages, and even a permanent incapacity to return to work. Besides physical injuries, many victims also suffer from emotional and mental strain from the pain of their injury, worrying about how they’ll pay their bills, and a diminished quality of life due to their injuries.
If you’ve suffered an injury due to falling debris, contact a New York construction accident lawyer immediately. An experienced construction accident attorney can help you build your case for your workers’ compensation claim, as well as a personal injury lawsuit. While workers’ comp will cover certain economic losses for your injuries, you will need to file a lawsuit to pursue non-economic losses.
But how do injuries happen on a construction site from falling objects or materials? There are seven main reasons injuries happen due to falling debris on a construction site.
1. Lack of Training in Securing Loose Objects
Some workers haven’t gone through appropriate training on how to secure loose objects like hand tools, construction materials, and equipment when not in use. This can lead to accidents when these items fall from high levels at a job site if there are people below.
2. Improper Stacking or Securing of Loose Objects or Materials
Workers at a construction site may not always stack or secure equipment or materials properly. A mistake when setting up a load for lifting or moving by crane or forklift can result in loose items toppling from an improperly stacked and secured load and causing injuries.
3. Malfunctioning Restraints or Safety Measures
If a construction worker secures materials or equipment with a nylon ratchet strap that has an unnoticed tear, the strap could break and dump the load, potentially injuring someone. Although workers are supposed to inspect restraints and other equipment before use, some defects can be small or hard to spot.
4. Failure to Implement a Net or Other Backup System for Falling Debris
Debris nets can catch objects that fall during a construction project, including bricks, concrete blocks, hand tools, and other materials and equipment. These nets double as fall protection for workers who slip or fall over the edge of their workspace and prevent them from falling more than a few stories.
5. Overloaded Forklifts, Cranes, or Other Material Moving Equipment
Workers should always verify the weight limits and rigging configurations of heavy loads of equipment or materials before attempting to move them with cranes or other machinery. These machines also require regular inspections to ensure that they are in proper working order.
6. Failure to Post Warning Signs Around a Work Area
Managers and supervisors must ensure that workers and nearby pedestrians are aware of the risk of falling objects around an active work zone. Barricades, signs, and security can help to make people aware of the potential dangers of walking near or under construction sites.
7. Failure to Enforce Hard Hat and Other Safety Equipment Requirements
Workers should wear hard hats, vests, safety glasses, and steel-toed shoes in construction environments. Supervisors and coworkers should remind workers to wear all of the required and recommended personal protective equipment for their own safety in case of an accident.
Statistics About Construction Debris Injuries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 13 construction worker fatalities in 2020 in New York City, including three from contact with objects and equipment. In 2020, New York state had a fatal injury rate of 11.1 worker deaths in construction compared to an overall fatal injury rate of 2.9 across all injuries. New York City had a fatal injury rate of 7.0 in construction and 1.9 overall.
In 2021, New York State had a 12.1 fatal injury rate for construction workers with a 2.9 fatal injury rate across all industries. New York City had an 11.2 fatal injury rate in construction and 2.0 overall.
Across the U.S. in 2020, there were 74,520 non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the construction industry, including 13,640 injuries from being struck by an object or equipment. In 2021, construction fatalities totaled 986 worker deaths across the country, with 127 stemming from contact with an object or equipment.
According to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study, the top three causes of non-fatal injuries are being struck by handheld objects or equipment, falling objects or equipment, and flying or discharged objects.
Injured by Falling Debris? Call a New York Personal Injury Attorney
Being struck by falling debris is just one of many common construction site accidents and injuries. If you are a construction worker who was injured on the job, you can file a workers’ comp claim for your medical expenses and part of your lost wages, but workers’ comp doesn’t cover the full value of lost wages after a workplace injury.
If you suffered an injury from construction debris, you may need to file a lawsuit for full compensation of your injuries and losses. Filing suit against a construction company, manufacturer, property owner of the job site, or other negligent party allows you to pursue economic, non-economic, and potentially punitive damages.
For help managing your falling debris construction injury case, contact us at William Schwitzer & Associates law firm in New York City today to schedule a free consultation.
Why do construction sites and buildings post warning signs “watch for falling debris”?
Construction workers and pedestrians alike are at an increased risk of being struck by construction debris around an active work site. “Watch for falling debris” signs remind people to be aware of and watch for hazards. Even a site that has shut down for the night or weekend could pose a hazard as an unrestrained or improperly restrained object could come loose and strike someone passing by below.
How can we prevent falling debris injuries in a construction site?
Construction sites can implement several safety precautions to secure a piece of equipment or materials and prevent injuries from falling debris, including:
- Using protective equipment like hard hats
- Installing debris nets and catch platforms
- Using the appropriate wristbands or belt attachments for tools not currently in use
- Posting warning signs about prospective hazards
- Maintaining barricades to prevent people from walking under active work areas
How do you manage construction waste and demolition debris?
Construction and demolition (C&D) waste accounts for over 60% of solid waste in New York City by weight. The main way to manage C&D waste includes sorting materials at different levels to reduce landfill waste, which New York currently exports to nearby states. Proposed solutions include sorting waste on-site for the least landfill impact, or at a sorting facility for a medium landfill impact.