Construction workers have difficult jobs and must frequently work around dangerous conditions. One particular type of hazard on construction sites involves working with and around heavy machinery. While construction workers and site supervisors might take safety precautions, heavy equipment accidents still occur. Here is some information about heavy equipment failures at work and the potential legal remedies that might be available.
Understanding heavy equipment failures and resulting accidents
Heavy equipment failures and accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities. These types of accidents can involve many different types of heavy equipment used in construction and manufacturing, including bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, dump trucks, and more. While worker negligence might sometimes result in heavy equipment accidents, many cases involve defective equipment, improper balancing, or negligence on the part of equipment owners or on-site supervisors. Inadequate training and violations of OSHA standards can also result in serious accidents involving heavy equipment.
Common types of accidents involving heavy machinery
The most common types of accidents involving heavy machinery can be grouped into the following categories:
- Struck-by accidents
- Caught between or crushing accidents
Some examples of struck-by accidents involving heavy equipment include workers being hit by mobile heavy equipment, being struck by loads carried by equipment, or being struck by swinging cranes.
Falls from equipment and platforms attached to heavy machines are also common. The cabs of some types of heavy equipment are high above the ground, and falling can result in serious injuries or death.
Workers can also be seriously injured or killed in caught-between or crushing accidents. Some examples of these types of accidents include improperly balanced cranes tipping over and crushing workers or workers suffering degloving injuries by getting an extremity caught in a machine.
Electrocution accidents involving heavy equipment can also occur. For example, if a machine contacts a live wire buried under the ground or a power line above the worksite, anyone touching the equipment can be electrocuted.
Common types of heavy equipment involved in accidents
Cranes are the leading type of heavy equipment that can be involved in a workplace accident. They pose dangers to both the people working on construction sites and pedestrians walking nearby. When a crane is imbalanced, it can tip over and collapse. Swinging cranes can strike people. A heavy equipment failure involving a crane can cause it to collapse, and a load can fall from a crane.
Bulldozers are another type of heavy construction equipment that is often involved in many heavy equipment accidents. Bulldozers can tip over as they go over uneven terrain, and people can be trapped inside of them or be crushed beneath them when they roll over.
Dump trucks can be involved in accidents as they travel to and from construction sites as well as when they are being used to perform work on the site. At any time, an electrical or mechanical failure can cause the dump truck’s body to lose its elevated position. Dump trucks are also frequently involved in back-over accidents on construction sites. Unloading dump trucks on hills can also cause sliding accidents.
Scaffolding and ladders
Many construction site accidents involve ladders and scaffolding. Ladders might be improperly balanced, or the protocols for their use might be inadequate. Ladders might also be improperly manufactured and contain defects that cause them to collapse. Scaffolding can be improperly designed and constructed, resulting in it collapsing and causing workers working at heights to fall substantial distances.
Causes of heavy equipment accidents
Heavy equipment accidents can be caused by many different types of malfunctions and mistakes. Some of the most common causes of heavy equipment accidents include the following:
- Failure to adequately check blind spots before backing up
- Slipping and falling when trying to climb on or off
- Being struck by falling loads from equipment
- Getting caught in a machine and dragged
- Being crushed by a machine collapse or structure collapse
- Inadequate training and supervision
- Defective brakes or other components
- Poor maintenance
More recently, the labor and supply chain shortages have also resulted in an increase in heavy equipment accidents. This is because employers are likelier to make negligent hiring decisions in an effort to fill their open positions. Maintenance of the machines might also be delayed, and missing parts might not be delivered on time. All of these problems can result in serious accidents, injuries, and deaths.
Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Lack of proper boots and gloves
- Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Lack of proper boots and gloves
- Lack of communication or poorly understood signals
- Overcrowded work sites
- Failing to rope off areas within a machine’s swing radius
- Failing to provide or use personal protective equipment
- Instability of loads resulting in rollovers
- Overhead and underground obstructions
- Improper assembly of heavy equipment
- Lack of safety features designed to protect operators and alert them
- Lack of rollover protection
- Using the wrong equipment for the job
Employers must ensure that their employees have the right personal protective equipment and that they are fully trained before they operate heavy equipment. They must adhere to OSHA’s guidelines for safety procedures and practices. Many accidents involving heavy equipment can be avoided by following the guidelines established by OSHA, and others can be prevented if dealers and manufacturers ensure that basic safety features are installed.
Times when heavy equipment accidents are likelier to occur
Heavy equipment accidents can happen at any time, which is especially true when the equipment is poorly maintained or defective. When construction workers are engaged in the following tasks, accidents involving heavy equipment are likelier to happen:
- Operating equipment on uneven terrain or slopes
- Turning or backing heavy equipment
- Climbing on or off heavy equipment
- Unloading or loading heavy equipment
- Working near heavy equipment carrying objects that can fall
- Working around power lines
Rollover accidents can happen when heavy equipment is operated on uneven surfaces or slopes or is improperly loaded. Workers can also be crushed, dragged, or caught when a piece of heavy equipment is backing up. This can happen when the operator fails to see the worker behind the equipment because of its blind spots or because the machine does not have properly functioning warning lights installed.
Common types of injuries caused by heavy equipment
Heavy equipment accidents can occur when dealers, manufacturers, employers, or employees engage in some type of negligence. Some of the types of injuries that can result in heavy equipment accidents include the following:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Multiple fractures
- Severe burns
- Permanent disfigurement and scarring
- Severe lacerations
- Heart attacks caused by blood loss
Because of the severity of the injuries that can happen in an accident involving heavy equipment, these types of events often involve substantial losses. Injured victims might be left with permanent disabilities, face multiple hospitalizations, and suffer significant economic and non-economic losses. Because of the serious nature of heavy equipment accidents and the injuries they can cause, people who are injured in these types of accidents should talk to an experienced work injury attorney at The Lovely Law Firm to investigate the potential sources of recovery.
Workers’ compensation and third-party claims
Employers in South Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. When employees are injured while working on the job, they can file claims with their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Filing a workers’ compensation claim does not require you to prove that your employer was negligent. Because of its availability, you generally cannot file a lawsuit against your employer for a workplace injury.
However, there are certain exceptions to this general rule and times when other parties might be liable. For example, if your employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you can file a lawsuit against your employer when you have been injured in a heavy equipment accident.
It is also common on construction sites for multiple subcontractors to be working in close proximity to each other. If an employee of a different company operates heavy equipment and injures you, you can file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer and a third-party claim against the negligent worker and his or her employer.
Other third parties that might be potentially liable in a heavy equipment accident include the following:
- Project site owner that failed to maintain it in a safe condition
- General contractor when the injured victim is employed by a different contractor
- Equipment dealer or manufacturer when the equipment is defective
- Heavy equipment inspector or repair company that negligently inspected or repaired the equipment
Identifying all of the potentially liable parties in a heavy equipment accident is important. Workers’ compensation claims do not provide all of the compensation available through third-party personal injury lawsuits. Being able to file both types of claims might help you to recover full compensation for your losses.
Contact The Lovely Law Firm
If you have suffered serious injuries or have lost your loved one following an accident involving a heavy equipment failure, you should speak to an experienced attorney at The Lovely Law Firm as soon as possible. Call us today to request a free consultation at 843-281-7452.
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