Construction work is one of the most dangerous industries in the country with the fatal injury rate exceeding the national average for all other industries. Each part of a Chicago construction project must be executed with the utmost care to ensure that both employees and pedestrians nearby remain safe. Although there is extreme danger when it comes to construction projects, if the right protocols and regulations are followed, accidents can be avoided. However, when a construction site contractor is negligent, the possibility of serious or deadly personal injuries becomes more likely.
Who is a Contractor and What Do They Do?
There are many types of contractors operating within an Illinois construction project. A general contractor is hired to oversee large-scale construction projects, like a large office building, but they are also employed to oversee smaller projects, like the building of a home. A general contractor is responsible for the planning of the project as well as supervision of the project and supervision of employees throughout the build. These contractors are responsible for providing materials, equipment, and organizing the necessary laborers and they may also be responsible for applying for and obtaining proper building permits and licenses.
One of the general contractor’s main jobs is hiring subcontractors. Subcontractors will often bring their own employees to the site to complete the work they are hired to do. Subcontractors are typically specialized in a particular area of construction like plumbing, electrical, or roofing.
In a typical project, general contractors and subcontractors are independent contractors and they serve as their own bosses. Though there is a significant amount of interconnectedness in the work performed by a general contractor and that of a subcontractor, generally it does not amount to an employer/employee situation as the relationship terminates with the completion of the project.
Why Construction Site Accidents Happen in Chicago
Construction sites are inherently dangerous. Employees often work at great heights and incredibly heavy and hazardous equipment is used almost daily. With ever present dangers lurking about, it is important to have someone in charge who understands and respects safety protocols so that all employees go home to their families unharmed at the end of each day.
The general contract is responsible for employing and enforcing safety regulations as mandated by the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"). The contractor should guarantee that the building site is safe for all employees and he or she should require employees to follow regulations, whether that means wearing protective gear, operating machinery properly, or using the correct safety protocol for an activity.
Unfortunately in Illinois, contractors are not required to obtain a statewide contractor license. Rather contractors only have to meet some very minimal requirements to be licensed in the county or city in which they wish to work. In the city of Chicago, the requirements to register and become licensed as a general contractor are minimal. There is no mandatory training, no experience required, and no certification exam. After showing proof of insurance of a particular amount and paying an annual fee, a person may be licensed as a general contractor. This license must be renewed each year. Other more specialized contractors, like plumbers, have stricter requirements to become licensed and must obtain a statewide license.
Although contractors are responsible for the proper construction of towering buildings and the safety of countless individuals, very little is required to fill this role. As contractors are their own bosses, and the state does not demand high qualifications, there is often no check on their decision-making processes. Therefore dangerous choices and mistakes can go ignored and occur repeatedly, leading to accidents, injuries, and even death.
Common Accidents on a Chicago Site
As the general contractor serves as the commander of the construction site it is his or her job to ensure the safety of everyone both on the site and around the site. The general contractor must be vigilant in ensuring that OHSA guidelines are followed and that risks are mitigated whenever it is possible. However, when contractors slack on the job they leave their employees in the danger zone and when injuries occur those employees are often left to endure the consequences alone.
The most common type of injury for construction workers are falls, with 40% of yearly construction deaths attributed to these types of accidents. Other common injuries include electrocution, being struck by an object, or getting caught in between two surfaces.
If proper safety protocol is followed these accidents can be all but eradicated. For example most falls that result in death occur because the employee is not utilizing fall protection protocols like fall arrest systems, restraint systems, or guardrails and safety nets are not present. The contractor is responsible for enforcing safety protocols and overseeing the installation of necessary protections. The contractor should be strict with his employees to make sure they use the proper protection and he or she should be vigilant in inspecting the job site to remove potential hazards. While it is possible that an employee making his or her own decision foregoes fall protection, it is still the responsibility of the contractor to properly supervise employees to prevent the follow-through of such a dangerous decision.
Contractor negligence can also endanger those not working on the actual site. If general contractors overlook or ignore important guidelines structures around the job site can pose potential hazards to pedestrians. In Chicago, construction sites are integrated into citizens’ daily life. It is difficult for a person to make your way to work everyday without passing by a construction area. If not installed properly, scaffolding or temporary fences can seriously injure pedestrians or passing cars if they become loose and fall to the ground.
Finally, contractor negligence can endanger those living or working within the finished project. If a contractor does not properly oversee all steps of the construction the finished building or home can pose serious dangers to those inside.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a contractor’s negligence you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Under the law workers have a right to a safe workplace, and it is the role of the employer to ensure a safe environment. Furthermore, OHSA law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for speaking out against unsafe work conditions. If you believe you or a loved one has been injured as a result of contractor negligence you may be entitled to compensation. In Illinois compensation rights do not hinge on liability, therefore regardless of who is at fault for your injury or the injury or death of a loved one, you are still entitled to relief.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to contractor negligence, or you have lost a loved one due to a preventable accident, contact the construction accident attorneys at Abels in Annes in Chicago to discuss your case with an experienced and qualified attorney.
Contact Abels & Annes, P.C., toll-free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO, or locally in Chicago at (312) 924-7575, or if you prefer contact us online for a free, no-obligation case consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to take your call and provide the answers you need.