Construction workers encounter safety risks in all phases of their jobs, whether their feet are on the ground or behind the wheel. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC) has represented workers who have been injured or killed while driving to, from and for work.
The statistics for transportation-related occupational injuries and fatalities are staggering. According to Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries from Vehicles and Equipment, each year more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Vehicles and equipment operating in and around work zones are involved in more than half of the construction worker fatalities.
Driver inattention is a leading risk factor of most crashes, according to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.
Employers should take the lead in mitigating the risk of distracted driving. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety promotes several Drive Safely Work Week (DSWW) initiatives for fleets that can save lives and prevent injuries. They can also be observed during all times of the year. One example of its campaign is the DSWW Distracted Driving Module, which includes meaningful activities that reinforce the program’s safe-driving messages, yet won’t take significant time away from the workday.
Using hands-free phones and refraining from eating or drinking during a commute can reduce the risk of an on-the-road accident.
Pressure and Poor Decision-Making
There are times, unfortunately, when safety is sacrificed in the name of “getting things done” or because of a supervisor’s orders. In those situations, the consequences can be deadly.
Leaders In The Law recently reported on a Florida wrongful death case in which a driver made an illegal U-Turn on I-75. It was revealed during the trial that the driver, a third-party worker, was unfamiliar with the area but was told to proceed anyway to reach an unloading site one mile away. The turn was made at night, with little to no visibility or illumination and a collision quickly occurred. Ultimately, the jury found construction worker’s poor decision to operate the truck negligently caused the death of at least two people and injured others. The family of one of the victims sued the construction company and the driver and was awarded $45 million.
Site managers and supervisors should not pressure any worker – an employee or third-party laborer – to act in a manner that would put themselves or others in harm’s way. Though it can be intimidating, employees should speak up in those situations to avoid the risk of roadway accidents.
Seat Belts Save Lives
Most of the occupational fatalities occur on public highways where there are seat belt requirements and traffic laws between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. The most important driver safety policy that employers can implement and enforce is still the mandatory use of seat belts. NHTSA estimated that in 2000, the use of seat belts prevented 11,889 fatalities in the United States and could have prevented 9,238 fatalities that did occur.
SPBMC is committed to helping construction workers and other hardworking professionals who have sustained transportation-related injuries or fatalities. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.