Know the Danger of Caught-Between Construction Accidents
As an employee or employer, you should know about the difference between struck and caught-between accident injuries. Getting a serious injury at work can be a stressful event, especially considering the potential medical bills, lost wages and other financial concerns that can accompany such an injury. With regard to caught-between accidents, employers need to know how to protect their employees and take precautions to prevent them from occurring. They also need to know how to define these accidents as well as what to do if they happen.
According to OSHA, a caught-between accident is defined as an incident where an injury is sustained as a result of crushing between two or more objects. These events are commonly sustained when working with large machinery or structurally unsafe buildings or in excavation sites. They can lead to more extensive injuries and or even lifelong conditions. Depending on their severity, they can even lead to death although, generally, they are more likely to lead to debilitation. In contrast, a struck accident occurs when injuries are inflicted by the force of a moving object, such as an unsecured cinder block falling on top of a worker at a construction site.
The danger of caught-between accidents
Several events have happened in New Jersey over the last couple years that underscore the danger of caught-between accidents. In 2011, a North Brunswick service station worker was pinned between the flatbed of a truck and his metal tool case, according to Justice News Flash. This incident reportedly occurred because a fellow worker pulled the lever to lower the flatbed while the man was still working on it. He was pinned by the heavy metal bed for nearly an hour before anyone noticed that he was there, during which time he died, likely of suffocation or internal bleeding
In 2012, a worker with T. Fiore Demolition and T. Fiori Recycling was crushed inside a conveyor belt. According to ISHN, he was working on sorting items on the conveyor belt for recycling when he was caught between a piece of debris and the moving belt and then pulled in and crushed by the machine. For safety reasons, the conveyor belt should have had machine guarding, but it didn’t. With inadequate guardrails, no grab bars on nearby ladders, no safe scaffolds to climb out, unsafe accumulation of debris and lack of “lockout” procedures for the dangerous equipment, OSHA fined the company for failing to keep their recycling machine safe, secure and up to code.
How employers can protect their employees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 400 people died of caught-between accidents while on the job in 2008. Nearly one quarter of those deaths were connected with the private construction industry, indicating that there is a great need for these employers to protect their employees from these events. However, any employer dealing with heavy equipment, vehicles or machinery should ensure workplace safety to prevent caught-between accidents as well as to reduce liability and the likelihood of an OSHA violation.
It is the employers’ responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, and that includes securing large equipment and taking measures to prevent materials from falling on, crushing or pinning employees as well as ensuring that all power tools and other equipment have guards. Protective gear and training must be provided to everyone working on potentially unsafe sites or with heavy equipment. Finally, competent individuals must be assigned as foremen to watch out for potentially unsafe practices or situations on the job.
There are also several ways that workers can protect themselves from caught-between hazards. OSHA recommends using properly guarded and secured machinery, protecting against pinning and exercising caution while moving through unsafe areas.
If injured, consult an attorney
If you are unsure of how to best protect yourself from the health and financial impact of construction accidents, consider consulting with a construction accident attorney. Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be complicated, and an attorney can give you invaluable advice about the process.