Colorado construction workers continue to rebuild what the summer floods destroyed. In a previous post, we noted that with the amount of work that needs to be finished before winter arrives, there is a greater risk of worker injury.
OSHA is proactively taking steps to help protect workers as the cleanup efforts continue. From fact sheets to educational materials, workers can better understand some of the hazards that they may face while repairing the flood damage. Unfortunately, injuries can still occur and if that’s the case, a worker may be dealing with not only an injury but all the things that accompany it.
On-the-job injuries can happen whether the workplace is inside a building or outside. Most of the work being done to repair and clean up the flood damage will likely occur outside. While employers are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment, workers can also help reduce the risk of getting hurt.
The hazards that lead to injuries
There are many different hazards at a worksite. For example, after a flood the number of downed trees could result in stray branches hidden underneath other debris. Or stray animals unable to return home might be startled by a worker and try to bite or scratch. Not to mention some of the wild animals that have made the debris their new home.
Some even less obvious natural hazards can include mold or even dangerous chemicals. Workers may not realize that even smaller bodies of water may be contaminated. If unaware, a worker may ingest or absorb a dangerous chemical through a small cut or even while eating.
Workers are also at risk of injury from the equipment and supplies that are brought onto a worksite. Saws, tools, cranes and even scaffolding can lead to an accident if appropriate protective measures aren’t taken. Those onsite are also being urged to watch out for live or exposed wires that could cause electrocution if not careful.
And just like in an office or warehouse environment, injuries can be caused by stationary objects. Lifting dead branches or moving new materials, if done incorrectly, can result in a hurt back or shoulder.
What about the benefits?
If you’ve read any previous blog posts, you know that an injury occurred on the job, you are entitled to workers compensation benefits. This is good news for those who are working to rebuild after the floods. But are there instances where workers’ compensation benefits are reduced or terminated?
Unfortunately, a worker can lose some or all of his or her benefits if:
- The injury was the result of an accident caused by a knowing safety violation
- The injury was caused by drug or alcohol intoxication
If an insurance carrier believes that the worker caused his or her own injury, they can reduce or terminate the benefits without telling the worker. Not only that, but if an employer fires the injured worker, the worker will lose the benefits as well. This can come as a shock to the worker who had been relying on those benefits to help with lost wages and medical expenses.
In any of these cases, the fight to get those benefits back should be handled carefully. Given the complex nature of the hearings and filings that can follow, it’s best to make sure that a no-fault work injury lawyer helps you with the entire process.
Source: OSHA Regional News Release, “US Labor Department’s OSHA providing informational resources to assist Colorado workers, residents and businesses in cleanup efforts,” Sept. 24, 2013.
Source: Safety.BLR.com, “OSHA emphasizes safety in Colorado flood cleanup,” Emily Clark, Sept. 30, 2013.