A bizarre accident in New Jersey last month emphasizes the need for companies and general contractors to ensure that everyone on a construction site abides by safety rules, even ones that seem small. A 50-year old worker stopped by a site to deliver drywall and exited his vehicle without a hard hat. Subsequently, a tape measure fell off a worker’s belt from the 50th floor. The one-pound tape measure knocked the delivery man unconscious and he later died of cardiac arrest at the hospital. Sadly, this case reminds us that injuries do not just occur on jobs that are considered “high-risk.” While personal accountability is important, employers and general contractors bear the weight of ensuring that protocols are put in place and followed. What responsibilities do they have?
Typically, states have laws governing hard hat use. In the above mentioned case, the New Jersey Department of Public Safety mandates anyone working on a construction site must wear a hard hat at all times. The Indiana Worker Safety Initiative is called INSafe, and it set standards for workplace safety in our state. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) gives examples of occupations where hard hats should be considered, including carpenters, electricians, freight handlers, welders, timber cutting and logging occupations, and warehouse laborers. Therefore, it is the employer’s responsibility to consider state laws and OSHA recommendations when setting company policy about all types of protective wear. Employers and general contractors are responsible for conducting a workplace assessment to identify hazards that may require personal protective equipment, such as a hard hat. It is also the employer’s responsibility to set the requirements and communicate company policy with employees. Employers and general contractors must require hard hats if one of the following three hazards are present.
- The potential for an object to fall from above and strike an employee on the head.
- If there is a risk an employee might bump his or her head on a fixed object.
- If there’s a chance an employee could have head contact with an electrical hazard.
Employers must also consider the type of hard hat appropriate for their workers to wear. Every hard hat should include the manufacturer’s name, the date it was made, the legend (i.e. ANSI Z89.1), the class and the head size range. The following are the three classes and two types of hard hats.
- Class G is for general use and is proof tested at 2,200 volts.
- Class E is for electrical use and is proof tested at 20,000 volts.
- Class C is for conductive use and provides no electrical insulation.
- ANSI Type I hard hats meet stringent requirements for vertical impact.
- ANSI Type II hard hats are tested for both vertical and lateral impact. They have a foam inner liner made of expanded polystyrene.
Employers must also consider other hard hat requirements based on the type of work being performed. For example, some hard hats are marked with a “LT,” which stands for lower temperature. They meet and maintain standards down to a temperature of -22°F. If workers are in an environment where visibility is an issue, opt for a hat marked “HV” for high visibility. These hats come in high visibility colors and meet luminescence requirements.
Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
There are many construction safety factors to consider, even for items that seem as simple as protective gear. Simple violations can have heavy consequences for the company, general contractors, and the victim. In this case, a family is grieving the loss of their loved one and carrying the weight of lost income and medical bills. If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham for a free case consultation.