Within days of a Winston-Salem jobsite construction accident that killed a 62-year-old construction worker and hospitalized two more, WRAL.com reported that in 2010, North Carolina experienced a spike in work-related fatalities. Forty-eight North Carolina workers were killed while on the job last year, 15 in construction alone.
Construction has taken all kinds of hits during the recession. A dead-in-the-water housing market, paired with stagnancy in commercial growth, has contributed to fewer projects. Fewer projects translate into a consistent drop in the number of construction-related fatalities. Still, construction remains the most deadly of industries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the construction industry employs more than 11 million workers whose daily responsibilities put them in contact with some of the most hazardous conditions in U.S. industry. From day-to-day construction workers must deal with nearly-constant noise and dust from dangerous heavy tools and equipment. They work at great scaffolded heights and within confined below-ground spaces. Raw electricity is another constant hazard. While construction makes up just 8 percent of the U.S. workforce, it is responsible for 22 percent of all work-related fatalities – the highest across all industry.
In that sense, the Winston-Salem accident was a textbook construction accident. The three construction workers were overcome by an unidentified gas while replacing air-release valves inside a city water line – a confined underground space. One died.
The three were about three-feet down inside a vault in a closed-off city water line when they were overcome and lost consciousness, The News & Record reports. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has yet to identify the gas. It may take months to finish the investigation and issue citations.
The Winston-Salem City Attorney said worker safety is the responsibility of the contractor hired to handle the job. In the one other construction-related job site fatality on City property – a 2001 project where a 23-year-old worker was killed – the contractor was fined by the State, and the City was issued a letter outlining what measures could have been put in place to prevent the accident. With that said, just who is responsible in the present case is yet to be determined.
For North Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or injury, the Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys with Lee & Smith know recovery and adjustment can be a lifelong battle. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness anywhere in the Carolinas, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to discuss your rights.