A construction worker died recently after being injured at a work zone site on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension near the Lansdale exit. Officials report that the fatality was not traffic-related and according to the coroner’s investigation, the worker died of crushing blunt force head injuries. The owner of the site and the man’s employer are currently cooperating with the investigation led by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Work Zone Fatalities in Pennsylvania
From 2011 to 2015, 609 U.S. workers were fatally injured in work zone accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of the deaths occurred in four states: California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Approximately 46 percent of these fatalities were caused by vehicular incidents, including being struck by automobiles or dump trucks.
Each year, several agencies including the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) coordinate and sponsor National Work Zone Awareness Week. The event is designed to raise awareness about work zone safety issues and reduce the number of work zone accidents.
Causes of Highway Worker Injuries
Highway workers may become injured in motor vehicle accidents or other accidents at the work site. According to the FHA, there were 710 fatal work zone crashes in 2017, 29 percent of which were at least partially caused by speeding. However, there are various non-traffic related causes of work zone fatalities, including:
Dangerous equipment – Equipment can be hazardous to workers if not maintained or handled properly. Employers should regularly inspect and maintain equipment, train workers, and provide the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent equipment-related fatalities.
Heavy machinery – Construction workers often use bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, and other types of heavy machinery. Such machines can cause serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.
Workers’ Compensation for Work Zone Injuries
In Pennsylvania, most workers are entitled to compensation for their work injuries. Such compensation will depend on the nature of the injury and the circumstances of the case. To ensure the viability of their claims, injured workers must notify their employers of their injuries within 120 days of the accident.
Potential benefits include coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and specific loss awards. Families of those who are killed in work accidents may also be able to recover death benefits, including up to $3,000 in funeral expenses.
In exchange for providing no-fault workers’ compensation, employers may not be sued personally for their employees’ work injuries. However, construction workers often work with subcontractors and suppliers. These third parties may be held liable in third-party claims, which allow workers to recover additional damages for their work-related injuries, such as payment for pain and suffering.