Roofer (Roofing) Accidents
A New York City construction worker may sustain a serious or even fatal injury as the result of a number of different factors. A victim may be cut by a power tool, struck by debris, injured by a fall, crushed by equipment or even electrocuted by power lines and live wires.
Workers in the roofing industry face all of these dangers on a regular basis. It is crucial that roofers understand their legal rights and options if they are injured on the job.
Roofer Accident Statistics
In the year 2010, roofers held about 136,700 jobs. Approximately 67 percent of roofers were employed in the roofing contractor industry and 27 percent were self-employed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), work-related injuries for roofers are among the highest of all occupations.
Roofing is particularly dangerous because of the risk of falls from scaffolds, ladders and roofs. In the year 2012, there were 838 construction-related deaths nationwide. Fatal injuries involving construction trade workers rose to 577 after five years of a declining trend. The number of roofers killed on the job increased by 17 percent in the year 2012, compared to 2011. In fact, roofing had the fourth highest fatal work injury rate behind aircraft pilots, fishermen and logging workers.
The Dangers of Working on a Roof
There are many potential hazards roofers face routinely, including but not limited to:
- Inadequate support: Poorly designed and maintained buildings often do not have roofs that are strong enough to support workers and equipment. A thorough inspection of the supports should be performed before workers are allowed to begin work.
- Lack of safety devices: Workers should not be allowed to work on a roof without guardrails or a personal fall arrest system such as a full-body harness.
- Dangerous weather conditions: Roofers are often required to work in adverse weather conditions. Supervisors should stop work when the winds pick up or when there is rain, lighting, hail or snow.
- Slip-and fall accidents: Any liquid spills on the roof should be cleaned up right away or marked with cones. If there is ice on the roof that can pose a slip-and-fall hazard, it should be cleaned before workers go up.
- Dangerous power lines: Roofers are at risk of coming in contact with power lines. The job site should be scouted for such hazards before roofers begin the work.
- Uncovered holes: Any uncovered holes or openings such as skylights should be covered up at least temporarily. Otherwise, they can pose serious fall hazards.
- Inadequate supervision: Coordination and communication are key to working safely on a roof.
- Unsafe ladder use: Ladder accidents are a major cause of injuries to roofers. Defectively manufactured ladders or ladders that are unstable can lead to serious on-the-job injuries.
Injuries Suffered in Roofing Accidents
There are many different types of injuries that a roofer may suffer as the result of an accident. Some examples of injuries suffered in roofing accidents include:
- Broken bones: Bone fractures typically occur in victims who have fallen from elevations. Multiple bone fractures often take a long time to heal. Workers may need several weeks or months of physical therapy and rehabilitation before they can get back to work. In some cases, workers may never be able to return to work, particularly if they have suffered severe bone breaks.
- Spinal cord injury: This could range from a minor neck or back injury to a catastrophic injury that could leave a roofer paralyzed, with a lifelong disability. Spinal cord trauma is often caused by a fall, especially when a roofer falls on his back.
- Burn injuries: Roofers often handle a lot of chemicals while on the job. An accident may result in heat and chemical burn injuries. In addition to physical disabilities, these types of burn accidents could cause permanent scarring and disfigurement to the victim.
- Traumatic brain injury: This includes head injuries such as concussions and brain trauma from swelling and bleeding in the brain. Head injuries are often caused by falls or by falling objects striking the worker on the head. Brain injuries can also be debilitating and catastrophic leaving the worker unable to earn a livelihood.
- Cuts, lacerations and amputations: Working with power tools exposes roofers to risks of suffering cuts and lacerations. In severe cases, the roofer’s limbs may have to be amputated, leaving him or her unable to work.
- Electrocution: One of the lethal risks roofers face is the hazard of electrocution. Roofers frequently work close to live power lines and this increases the danger of electrocution.
Roofing Accident Investigations
Workplace accidents in New York are investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). When a roofer is injured on the job, a number of questions must be asked. Were they any violations with regard to workplace procedures? Was the worker provided with necessary safety equipment such as harnesses, hard hats, goggles, vests, safety nets, etc.?
Was the worker properly trained for the job? Did he or she receive sufficient training for the use of the safety equipment and about following safety procedures? Was the accident caused by a defective ladder? Did negligence on the part of another contractor or worker cause the accident? Was the worker properly supervised? Were all potential hazards removed from the worksite before the job commenced? These are just some of the questions that must be asked during a roofing accident investigation in order to determine precisely what happened and why.
Roof Safety Tips
The majority of roofing accidents can be prevented. Here are some safety measures that help prevent potentially deadly roofing accidents.
- Only use a ladder that has been inspected and secured. Never use metal ladders that can conduct electricity.
- Inspect the condition of the roof. Workers should be aware of the weak spots and holes that can pose falling and collapse risks.
- Step carefully. Only walk on special walkways or surfaces that are designed for walking.
- Never overreach. Extending yourself when climbing is simply not safe.
- Keep a clear path. Remove equipment, tools and building materials from walkways.
- Use all safety devices. Roofers should particularly use fall safety devices such as railings, harnesses and nets. Use goggles to prevent eye injuries and hard hats to protect your head.
- Receive training. Workers should learn not only how to work on a roof, but also how to stay safe while on the job.
What to Do if you are injured
If you have been injured while on a roofing job, it is important to obtain first aid or other appropriate medical treatment right away. The healthcare provider who is treating you must be authorized by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board, unless it is an emergency situation. Workers can find a list of authorized providers by calling 1-800-781-2362. If your employer has been authorized to participate in a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) program, you may be required to obtain medical treatment from a participating health care provider.
Also, if you are in need of diagnostic tests or prescription medicine, your employer or your workers’ compensation insurance carrier may require you to obtain your tests or your medicine from a diagnostic network or designated pharmacies or a network of pharmacies with which they have a contract. The employer or the employer’s insurance carrier is required to pay the cost of the injured worker’s necessary medical services. Health care providers may request that injured workers sign form A-9. This form is meant to provide notice to the injured worker that he or she may be responsible to pay the medical bills if the Workers’ Compensation Board disallows the claim or if the injured worker does not pursue the claim.
It is essential that you notify your supervisor about the injury and how it occurred as soon as possible. An injured worker who does not inform his or her employer in writing within 30 days after the date of the accident that caused the injury may lose the right to workers’ compensation benefits. In the case of occupational disease, notification should be given within two years after disablement, or within two years after the claimant knew or should have known that the disease was work-related, whichever is later.
Workers should also complete a claim for workers’ compensation on Form C-3 and mail it to the nearest office of the Workers’ Compensation Board, if there is lost-time. If workers fail to file a claim within two years from the date of the injury or disablement from an occupational disease, they may lose their right to benefits. It is also advisable for injured workers to follow doctor’s instructions, submit to an independent medical examination if required, return to work as soon as they are able and attend hearings as required by law.
Documenting Your Losses
Workers should document all their losses including emergency transportation costs, emergency room expenses, hospitalization, cost of medications, medical equipment, physical therapy, diagnostic tests, etc. In addition, it would be beneficial to keep a journal detailing your physical and emotional state as you recover. Were you unable to perform certain tasks as a father and husband – such as play with your child, care for your child, mow the lawn? These are details that should go in your journal.
Social Media and Online Activity
It would also be in your best interest to stop all online social media activity such as Facebook and blogging etc. But do not delete what is already online if you have a case in New York State, and that may be the case in other states also. Remember that insurance companies could use information from your posts, photos or videos on your sites to reject your claim or minimize the value of your claim. Do not write about your case in a blog or discuss details of your case in any other online forum. They may even use photos taken prior to your accident against you. Google yourself and find out what information exists out there about you.
Immediately after an accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who will advise you with regard to social media and who will help prepare your claim, explain the process and ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. What you do in the weeks and months after your workplace injury can definitely affect your personal and financial future.
Workers’ compensation benefits usually cover the injured worker’s medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. However, in many cases this is not sufficient to cover all expenses for injured workers and their families. In some incidents, the injured worker may also be able to file what is known as a third-party claim against a party other than the employer for significant money damages. Examples of potentially liable third parties may include general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, manufacturers of defective products, etc. For example, if a roofer was injured after falling off a defective ladder, then the manufacturer of the defective ladder may be held liable. If a dangerous condition on the property caused the accident, then the property owner can be held financially responsible. Injured roofing accident victims can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Permanent injury
- Loss of livelihood
- Lost future income
- Past and future pain and suffering
Contacting an Experienced New York Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction 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. Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York in 2010.
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