New York Construction Accident Related Eye Injuries
Construction activity remains one of the most prevalent as well as dangerous occupations in the United States. Numerous injury hazards lurk at construction sites. Construction laborers work with equipment such a nail guns and other power tools. Serious bodily injury or even death may occur when equipment malfunctions or when workers are not provided with the necessary safety gear. Because of all the increased number of hazards construction workers encounter in a typical day injuries tend to occur frequently at worksites. Eye injuries, in particular, are the most common at construction sites.
Eye injuries may range in severity from simple irritation due to a foreign object entering the victim’s eye to loss of sight. If you have suffered an eye injury on the job, you may be struggling physically, emotionally and financially. You may not be able to return to work for weeks or even months. Some victims may never be able to go back to work or earn a livelihood. Depending on the nature and extent of the eye injury, workers may be able to seek compensation for their losses. The experienced New York City personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your rights and ensure that your best interests are protected.
The Impact of Workplace Eye Injuries
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, 300,000 Americans visit an emergency room to seek treatment for workplace eye injuries. A significant portion of these eye injuries occurs in manufacturing, construction and mining industries, statistics show. These three industries account for 40 percent of all workplace eye injuries.
Job-related eye injuries cost an estimated $300 million a year in lost productivity, medical treatment and workers’ compensation. Each day, about 2,000 U.S. workers have a work-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of these eye injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days of lost work. Injuries range from simple eye strain to severe trauma, which can cause permanent damage and blindness.
Causes of Construction Eye Injuries
A majority of construction site eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye. Examples of such objects include metal slivers, wood chips, dust and cement particles that fly off tools, are wind blown or fall from above a worker. Some of these objects such as nails, staples, wood/metal slivers may penetrate the eyeball and result in a permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the worker’s eye or face. Or, a worker may run into an object at the site causing severe blunt force trauma to the eyeball or the eye socket. Construction workers who are working with industrial chemicals or powerful cleaning solvents may suffer chemical burns to one or both eyes when the chemicals splash. Welders, their assistants or other workers nearby may suffer UV radiation burns (also known as “welder’s flash”) that may seriously damage workers’ eyes and surrounding tissue.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 70 percent of the construction eye injuries resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pinhead. Most of the particles were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when an accident occurred. Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of these eye injuries. Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position such as tree limbs, ropes, chains or tools that were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them.
BLS also found that a number of eye injuries occurred during the operation of industrial or heavy construction equipment. BLS reported that more than 40 percent of injuries studied occurred among craft workers such as mechanics, carpenters, repairers and plumbers. More than one-third of the workers who suffered eye injuries were operatives such as assemblers, sanders and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered approximately one-fifth of these types of eye injuries.
Eye Protection at Construction Sites
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. This includes providing eye and face protection whenever necessary to guard against chemical, environmental and radiological hazards or mechanical irritants. Ensuring worker safety includes conducting a thorough assessment of the workplace and providing proper training for all workers who require eye and face protection. Only when workers are trained to function safely can they anticipate and avoid these types of injury on the job.
All eye and face protection provided by employers must comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Here are some of the criteria for personal protective equipment for the face and eyes:
- Eye and face protection should be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.
- The protectors should guard workers against the particular hazards for which they are designed.
- The protective gear must be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed and be reasonably comfortable to wear.
- The equipment should fit snugly and not interfere with the worker’s movements.
- The gear should be durable, easily cleanable and be capable of being disinfected, if and when necessary.
The Fit is Important
Employers should give due consideration to the comfort and fit of safety equipment. Poorly fitting eye and face protection may not guard workers against injury hazard. The fitting of goggles and safety spectacles should be done by someone who is skilled in the procedure. Only a qualified optometrist should fit prescription safety spectacles. Devices with adjustable features should be fitted on an individual basis to provide a comfortable fit while maintaining the device in proper position. Eye protection from dust and chemical splash should form a protective seal when fitted properly. Welding helmets and face shields must also be properly fitted to ensure that they will not fall off during work operations.
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that each employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when they are exposed to hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids, caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potential dangerous light radiation, etc.
If You Have Suffered an Eye Injury at Work
If you have sustained an eye injury on the job, stop what you are doing right away and report it to your supervisor. Do not ignore the problem. Make sure you get prompt medical attention. If your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance requires you to go to a specific doctor, do so. File a detailed report with your supervisor or manager and obtain a copy for your records. Make sure you document information regarding who else was present at the time you got injured. If any defective equipment was involved, it is important to preserve the equipment or machinery intact so it can be thoroughly examined by an expert for flaws and malfunctions. It is crucial that you follow doctor’s orders and obtain appropriate treatment and care for your injured eye.
Common Types of Eye Injuries
There are a number of potential injuries workers may suffer due to eye trauma. Here are some of the most common types of eye injuries:
Corneal abrasions: This occurs when you get poked in the eye or rub the eye when a foreign object is present. Corneal abrasions cause eye redness and severe sensitivity to light. If you have suffered these injuries, you need immediate attention from an eye doctor. Scratches may make your eyes susceptible to infection from bacteria or fungus. This may cause significant harm in as little as 24 hours, including blindness.
Penetration or foreign objects: If a foreign object such as metal penetrates your eye, visit the ER right away. Do not try to remove the object yourself or rub your eyes. Metal foreign bodies can quickly form a rust ring and leave a significant scar. Your eye doctor should remove these foreign bodies as soon as possible.
Chemical exposure: Getting unexpectedly splashed in the eye by acids or alkalis may cause chemical burn injuries. Depending on the chemical substance, the effects of the exposure can range from minor irritation and red eyes to serious eye damage and even blindness.
Swollen eyes: Eye swelling and puffy, swollen eyelids can occur as a result of being struck in the eye by a falling or flying object moving at a high rate of speed. If this happens, you need to see a doctor right away to make sure there is no internal damage.
Bleeding of the eye: This usually involves leakage of the blood from one or more breaks in a blood vessel that lies between the white of the eye and its clear covering. Bleeding may occur from even minor injury to the eye.
Traumatic iritis: This refers to inflammation of the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil (iris) and occurs after an eye injury. Traumatic iritis can be caused by a poke in the eye or a blow to the eye from a blunt object. Even with medical treatment, traumatic iritis may result in permanently impaired vision.
Orbital blowout fractures: These are cracks or breaks in the facial bones surrounding the eye. Orbital blowout fractures are serious eye injuries and definitely pose a medical emergency. They are usually caused by significant blunt force trauma to the eye and the face.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
When it comes to construction site eye injuries, there are a number of parties that can be held liable. Injured workers can seek workers’ compensation benefits. However, workers’ compensation may not be enough in a case resulting in significant losses. This is especially true if the worker has been seriously or catastrophically injured. In cases where parties other than the employer are found to have been negligent and caused or contributed to the eye injury, workers can file what is known as a third-party claim seeking compensation for damages.
Examples of third parties include general contractors, sub-contractors, property owners and/or managers, manufacturers of defective machinery, makers of faulty protective eye gear, etc. An experienced eye injury lawyer in New York City will be able to thoroughly assess each claim to determine all potentially liable parties.
Compensation for Damages
If you have suffered an eye injury in a construction accident, you are probably wondering what types of damages you may be able to seek. Here are some of the types of damages for which you can be reimbursed:
- Medical expenses: These expenses include emergency room costs, hospitalization, surgeries, cost of medication, medical devices, etc.
- Lost wages and benefits: This includes all income and benefits that were lost as a result of the eye injury. A worker may have to take anywhere between a few days to a few months to recover so that he or she can return to work.
- Lost future income: If the worker has suffered catastrophic eye injury such as partial or total loss of vision, he or she is also entitled to damages for lost future income and loss of his or her livelihood.
- Rehabilitation: After a career-ending eye injury, a worker may need physical or occupational therapy or other tools to move on with his or her life. These rehabilitative tools are often costly. These expenses can also be part of a worker’s injury claim.
- Past and future pain and suffering: This includes the physical and emotional pain caused to the victim as a result of the injuries.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered eye injuries in a worksite accident due to someone else’s negligence or fault, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case. We have recovered many millions of dollars for victims of construction site accidents.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com