Handymen are capable of carrying out a vast array of home projects. A handyman’s services typically involve minor tasks such as home repairs, painting and maintenance. While licensed and well-qualified specialists are needed for handling code-complying plumbing and electrical work, a trained handyman can easily handle small jobs such as fixture replacements, carpentry, deck cleaning, tile work, etc. The majority of handyman jobs come with limited risk of serious injury, but handyman accidents can and do occur. Handymen often face hazards that are similar to those experienced by construction workers operating power tools and other machinery.
Handymen are workers who have experience with a variety of jobs that are routinely carried out in residential and commercial buildings. They often engage in minor electrical work, plumbing, repairs and other forms of general maintenance. The term handyman describes a paid worker who is compensated to perform specific jobs, which may range from unskilled to highly skilled. Examples of jobs handymen perform include, but are not limited to, painting, drywall repair, remodeling, minor plumbing and electrical work, furniture assembly, etc. Given the many different types of tasks that a handyman does, the following are the risks usually associated with this line of work.
Handyman accidents commonly involve:
Falls: Handymen often work alone. So there is rarely anyone else present to secure the ladder or to supervise the work that is being done. Falls cause some of the most devastating injuries for handymen. Falls can result in serious or even catastrophic injuries such as brain trauma, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage and multiple bone fractures. It is crucial that handymen have fall protection devices such as harnesses before they start work on any project that requires them to be at higher elevations.
Electrical shocks: Accidents involving even minor electrical work has the potential to result in painful and life-threatening electrical shock injuries. It is essential for all handymen to wear protective gear and to learn about the dangers of working around live wires.
Power tool accidents: Many handyman tasks involve the use of saws, nail guns, drills and other potentially dangerous tools. Safety guards should be turned on when using power tools. Workers should wear gloves, hard hats and eye protection to guard against injuries.
Eye injuries: Many handyman jobs involve flying debris, falling objects and other potential eye hazards. Wearing safety goggles is an important part of eye injury prevention.
Slips and falls: Handymen are often required to work in cluttered areas that can result in tripping accidents and wet conditions that can result in slip-and-fall accidents.
Roof accidents: Handymen are often asked to perform dangerous tasks they are not licensed to perform. For example, it is not advisable for handymen to work on roofs without proper training and safety precautions.
Most Dangerous Tools and Equipment for Handymen
There are many tools of the trade that may hurt rather then help handymen, especially if those tools are defective. Here is the top 10 list of tools that are most hazardous for New York’s handymen:
Nail guns: These tools may be extremely useful and make quick work of a number of odd jobs, but power nailers or nail guns also send 37,000 people a year to emergency rooms according to a 2001-2005 study done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nail guns may result in severe internal injuries, loss of vision, impalement and even death.
Chain saws: These power tools account for 36,000 emergency room cases a year. Kickback may occur when the moving chain at the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Tip or bar nose contact can cause a fast reverse reaction, kicking the guide bar up and back toward the operator, also known as “kickback.” This could result in a handyman losing control of the saw and lead to serious personal injury.
Table saws: These tools are commonly used in a number of home improvement projects. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Trauma, roughly 31,400 people are treated in emergency rooms every year for table saw injuries. About 93 percent of those injuries were to the users’ finger, thumb or another part of the hand. About 66 percent of those injured had lacerations while 10 percent had amputations. Users also suffered soft-tissue injuries to the head, face and neck from flying bits of lumber and debris.
Snowblowers: Handymen are in high demand during the winter months in New York. Often times, they must use snow blowers to clear sidewalks and walkways. About 5,700 people go to the ER each year in the United States as a result of snowblower injuries. The most common types of injuries are broken bones and finger amputations.
Backhoes: Handymen typically rent out this piece of hydraulic equipment when required. Backhoes kill an average of 38 construction workers a year. A majority of the injuries involve workers being struck-by or crushed by the equipment.
Ladders: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 2012, 724,000 people received medical treatment for an injury suffered while using a ladder or stepstool of some kind. That adds up to nearly 2,000 people injured each day. It is important for workers to take proper safety measures while using ladders for any type of job. Defective ladders can also cause devastating injuries to handymen.
New York City Rules and Regulations
There are many rules and regulations that apply to home improvement and renovation projects carried out in New York. For example, a handyman must have a Home Improvement Contractor license before engaging in construction, remodeling or residence repairs. Without the contractor license, a handyman cannot for instance, construct, replace or improve basements, fences, garages, driveways, patios, sidewalks, terraces or swimming pools. Also, a Home Improvement Salesperson license is required to negotiate a home improvement contract and a city permit is necessary to perform improvements involving plumbing, electrical work or sidewalk repairs
Liability Issues in Handyman Injury Cases
If you are a self-employed handyman, it is important that you purchase insurance that will cover expenses in the event you are injured. Premises-operations liability coverage can protect you if you are hurt while performing work on your customer’s property. Premises-operations and products-completed operations liability can provide support for claims that result from completed tasks as well. Additionally, it may be in your best interest to secure workers’ compensation insurance. If you work for a company that employs a number of handymen, that company may be required to purchase workers’ compensation for you.
Often, the question arises: Who is liable when a handyman gets injured on the job? The answer depends on whether the handyman works for a company that has other employees or if he is an independent worker or contractor. If the handyman works for a company, he is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits through his employer. In New York, workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. When a worker is killed on the job, his family may be eligible to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation insurance.
However, when a handyman is an independent contractor, the situation can get complicated. In such cases the person or entity that hired the handyman for the job may be held financially liable for the injuries and damages if found negligent. In certain instances the handyman’s injuries may be the result of defective products such as malfunctioning power tools or faulty ladders. If that is the case, then the manufacturer of the defective product can be held liable for the handyman’s injuries, damages and losses. Sometimes, negligence on the part of a utility company may have caused or contributed to a worker’s injuries. In such cases, the at-fault utility companies can be held liable.
Injured handymen can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Family members of deceased workers can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages as well.
Common Injuries Suffered
Handymen face the risk of suffering a number of different types of injuries. Some of these injuries may be treated with simply a short period of rest. However, certain injuries may require surgery and lengthy rehabilitation, which tends to be financially devastating for the victim as well as his or her family. Some may suffer catastrophic injuries, which means, they would never be able to return to work or earn a livelihood. Handymen suffer a variety of injuries on the job including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Broken bone injuries
- Loss of vision and hearing
- Soft tissue injuries
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Neck and back injuries
- Limb and finger amputations
If You Have Been Injured
If you are a handyman who has been injured on the job, there are a number of questions that must be asked to establish liability. What caused the accident? What is the severity or extent of the injuries? Did someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing contribute to the accident? Was there a dangerous condition on the property? The answers to these and other such questions will help determine precisely what caused the accident and how it could have been prevented.
As an injured worker, it is important that you take the steps necessary to protect your rights and options. Immediately after an accident, contact a New York personal injury lawyer who has experience handling workers’ compensation cases and third-party claims. Choose an attorney who has a successful track record with accident cases involving handymen. It may also be in your best interest to:
- Immediately notify the homeowner about the accident and your injuries. If you have been injured at a place of business, notify the business owner and/or property manager about the incident and file a report. Make sure you obtain a copy of that report.
- Collect contact information. Write down the name and number of anyone who may have witnessed the accident. You should also have the contact information for the owner of the premises.
- Call for emergency services. If you have suffered a severe injury you should call for an ambulance and request a trip to the hospital that same day. Some injuries including broken bones and injuries to the head, neck or back may not exhibit symptoms immediately. If you are injured, do not move and wait for emergency personnel to come and help you.
- Get prompt medical attention. Follow the doctor’s orders and obtain the treatment you need in order to maximize your chances for a speedy and complete recovery.
- Take photos of the site of the accident as well as of your injuries.
- Keep records of your losses. Write down the number of workdays you have missed because of your injuries. Keep copies of medical bills for expenses related to your injuries. Keep a detailed account of what you have or have not been able to do as a result of your injuries. For example, if you’ve had to hire a maid or a gardener due to your injuries, make sure you include that. Keep track of what you spent on physical therapy and other rehabilitative treatment. A number of these costs tend to be out of pocket, because health insurance policies often do not cover them.
- Research your options. You may be able to receive financial support through workers’ compensation benefits or by filing a legal claim against the property owner or another party that was responsible for the accident and your injuries. The law in this area is complex and challenging to understand. Injured victims and their families would greatly benefit from the counsel of an experienced lawyer.
Contacting an Experienced New York Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a handyman accident, 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.
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