And They All Fall Down: Fatal Risks of Getting Caught in a Building Collapse During Construction
Due to the nature of the job, it’s easy to see why construction is dangerous. Every aspect of the industry poses a unique threat to those involved. Heavy machinery and tools malfunction and cause injuries. Ladders and scaffolding break and cause workers to fall. Even building materials such as concrete, rebar, and nails can cause severe injuries to those working with them. Unfortunately, the most deadly and financially devastating risk for construction workers, building collapses, is rarely discussed.
Types of Construction Collapses
Construction collapses are less common than construction falls and machinery malfunctions. However, they are the most disastrous for workers, employers, and the overall community. The resulting destruction can not only be fatal to workers, but it can cost contractors thousands of dollars while also delaying the project. The amount of damage that results depends on whether the type of collapse was partial or total.
- Partial collapse. A partial collapse is when part of a building falls during construction. This phenomenon often occurs as a result of a joist or brace giving way, causing the supported floor to collapse unto the floor below. In some cases, the weight of the fallen floor will cause the second floor to collapse, and so on and so forth, creating a pancake effect. These types of collapses pose immediate danger to those standing or working nearby as debris, such as broken concrete, construction equipment, or scaffolding can fall on them with tremendous force.
- Total collapse. A total collapse is just what it sounds like—the complete destruction of a building due to the internal collapse of the structure. This type of collapse is most likely to happen during the initial building phase when the foundation has been poured but not set or when the initial frame has been built but not supported. When the structure of a building collapses, any person, worker, or passerby is at risk for sustaining injuries. Workers who were on the structure may suffer fall injuries or be crushed by the collapsing frame. Those below the structure risk injury from falling debris and respiratory problems from the cloud of concrete dust created by the collapse.
Causes of Collapse
Some of the greatest dangers posed by a building collapse include:
- Brain, spine, and internal injuries from falls.
- Concussions and broken bones from falling debris.
- Crushing injuries from heavy materials.
- Perforation injuries from sharp objects that stick out of the rubble.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the cause of these collapse injuries can be blamed on several factors, including poor weather—for instance, a tornado or flood can jeopardize a structure’s integrity, causing it to collapse.
However, when weather is not a factor, the cause of a building collapse is generally due to someone’s negligence. Three of the important reasons are:
- Poor planning. Many building collapses occur as a result of rushing construction. Employers will disregard safety guidelines and architectural planning to try to get the job done quickly. Buildings need to be framed and secured before internal construction can be started, but sometimes a general contractor will assign workers to begin a secondary task before the first task is completed. This can jeopardize the entire structure. For example, one worker may be trying to secure joists on the first floor, while another worker is hoisting a thousand pounds of concrete onto the second floor. Although the concrete may be needed in the near future, if the joists aren’t secured by the time the cement is dropped, the weight of the concrete can bring the entire building down.
- Negligent construction. A building is only as strong as its foundation. When an employer cuts corners or a co-worker fails to complete his job, he places everyone who comes into contact with the building at risk.
- Defective materials. A building’s strength depends on the materials used to make it. If the materials are weak, the building will be weak also. It is up to the contractor to provide materials that meet—if not surpass—safety standards. When an employer fails to provide adequate materials, he gambles on the integrity of the building and puts his workers and the community at risk for severe injuries.
Building a Strong Foundation for Your Injury Claim
Building collapses can almost always be traced back to someone else’s negligence. If you or a loved one has been injured in one of these on-the-job construction accidents, it’s important that you contact a lawyer to learn more about your legal rights. Even if you’re not sure exactly when or how the negligence occurred, an attorney’s advice can help you build the foundation of a personal injury claim.
Don’t wait any longer before calling experienced construction and on-the-job injury lawyer Steve Lee at 800-232-3711. Schedule a FREE consultation to get the guidance and support your claim needs.