Carolina Roofers at High Risk of Fall-Related Injuries

Roofing is a tough job. The hours are early and long. The physical labor is intense. Exposure to the extreme elements exacerbates all of it.roofing

A study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) Data Center revealed falls from roofs account for one-third of all fall-related construction deaths from 1992 to 2009. Those most at risk were employed by small companies, mostly on residential construction projects. Immigrant workers and Hispanic workers faced higher risks of injuries.

During the study period, 20,500 people died in the construction industry, and of those, nearly 6,600 died in falls. Of those, 2,163 deaths happened when workers fell from the roof. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once conducted an in-depth analysis last year looking at the death of a Hispanic worker form a residential roof in North Carolina. The 37-year-old laborer fell nearly 14 feet from a residential roof onto a concrete driveway, and died immediately.

At the time, he was one of five workers on the roof, though he was out-of-sight of the others. They only knew he had fallen because they heard his body hit the ground. An investigation revealed some problematic issues that we see arise often in these cases. Those included:

  • A more than 13-foot fall distance onto a concrete surface
  • 10/12 roof pitch
  • 25-foot working length of fall arrest system lifeline
  • Fall arrest system lanyard connected at an ineffective point
  • Fall arrest system not properly anchored
  • Worker’s lack of experience and training

The North Carolina Department of Labor/ Occupational Safety & Health Division (NCDOL/OSH) determined that if the work site had been inspected by a competent person for fall hazards before the work started, this tragedy likely could have been prevented. Further, all general contractors need to ensure through the contract language that all subcontractors have a full safety program.

For injured workers and families of those left behind, there is often the option of workers’ compensation, though it depends on the classification of the worker.

Independent contractors are not entitled to these benefits, but they may alternatively have the ability to sue the general contractor or property owner for negligence. There are benefits and drawbacks to to this. The benefit is the payout tends to be much larger than what would receive through workers’ compensation benefits. The drawback is the process tends to drag on longer and the worker is burdened with proving negligence, which they would not have to do in order to obtain workers’ compensation.

It’s important to point out that just because an employer labels a worker “independent contractor” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they are. Those classifications are subject to court analysis, and courts often find employers wrongly classify workers in order to avoid paying insurance.

If the worker was indeed an employee, workers’ compensation benefits may be available – including workers’ compensation death benefits for those who are killed on the job. In addition to these, a worker and/or survivors may find it beneficial to pursue a third-party liability action. In some cases, the owner of the residential home where the work is being completed may be liable. So too might the general contractor or other subcontractors. It will depend greatly on the individual circumstances.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Hispanic worker falls from residential roof – North Carolina, Jan. 12, 2015, Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program, NIOSH/ CDC

More Blog Entries:

Prescription Opiod Use a Threat to Worker Safety, Feb. 4, 2016, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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