According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, iron workers have the highest injury rate of all occupations. Often working at dizzying heights with heavy or powerful equipment, iron workers are at great risk of falling, being struck by equipment, tools and material dropped on them from above, or having walls or columns collapse upon them, among other things.
The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union has identified “the deadly dozen” workplace hazards for iron workers. These are:
- Falls through unprotected or inadequate floor opening covers
- Collapse of unsecured open web steel joists
- Lack of fall protection and inadequate use of fall arrest equipment
- Falls during installation of floor and roof decking
- Material-handling injuries during steel erection and reinforcing steel activities
- Column collapse due to anchor bolt failure and/or insufficient concrete strength
- Collapse of unsupported reinforcing steel columns, walls, and decks
- Injuries from falling objects, tools, and materials
- Crushing injuries during hoisting and rigging operations
- Impalement from unprotected vertical projections
- Electrical hazards and injuries
- Heat illness and toxic exposure to chemicals and air-borne contaminants
Such accidents can cause a wide range of injuries, including cuts, bruises, broken bones and fractures, internal bleeding, lacerations, amputations, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain damage, paralysis, coma, and even death.
Ironworkers Can Reduce the Risk of Injuries
Given the complexity and scale of the iron work taking place on many constructions sites, it may seem impossible that such an environment could be injury-free for workers. But it can happen.
In January 2013, the iron workers at Antioch, California’s Marsh Landing Generating Station celebrated 40,000 injury-free man-hours – an incredible feat. The site manager explains that they’ve kept their injury rate at zero by creating an extreme “culture of safety.” In this, they focus on three essential aspects:
- Job Hazard Analysis: Before performing any task, iron workers must list what tools they’ll need on the job, write a step-by-step description of the tasks to be performed, and, separately, describe what aspects of the task are most likely to give rise to injury. This analysis allows them to assess and remain aware of what safety measures must be taken at all points of the task and encourage them to take action to prevent injury.
- Housekeeping: Injuries are more likely to arise from a messy or disorganized work site. Contractors should develop and distribute a detailed housekeeping plan to keep the site as hazard-free as possible. Iron workers should adhere to the plan to avoid injuring themselves or others.
- Safety planning: For each major operation on the Marsh Landing site, the managers developed a “task package.” This package showed how each operation could be carried out safely by breaking down each step of the operation and including detailed drawings and safety plans.
While not every construction site will have such a detailed plan of action, the takeaway is clear: Managers should help their workers identify and minimize hazards, and provide appropriate safety equipment in good condition. Iron workers should fully understand each step of their task, and take action to minimize risk of injury to themselves and others.
What to Do if Concerned About the Safety of Your Construction Site
California iron workers with safety concerns about their work site should file a complaint at their local Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Unless you opt to have your name disclosed, confidentiality is assured when filing a complaint.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of an iron working job, contact a knowledgeable iron worker accident attorney. An experienced attorney can guide you through the workers’ compensation process, assess whether a third-party lawsuit is appropriate, and help you receive the compensation you need and deserve.
The California accident lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP are committed to helping San Francisco Bay Area iron workers accident victims who have been injured on construction sites and in the workplace across California.