It’s not uncommon for buildings to catch fire or explode while being constructed or rebuilt in New York City. In the construction sector, burn injuries are extremely common. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that every year 66 construction workers lose their lives due to accidents like explosions, fires, and exposure to dangerous chemicals. Burn injuries and other preventable construction mishaps affect many workers, including electricians, HVAC technicians, equipment operators, carpenters, and many others.
According to New York’s Labor Laws, the responsibility for maintaining a safe work environment is on the owner and general contractor. Therefore, if you have suffered burn injuries at such a location, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Your rights, under the workers’ compensation and personal injury laws, are protected in various circumstances, but these claims can be challenging because there may be numerous liable parties.
Occupational Burn Injuries & Construction Accidents
Every day on a construction site brings new challenges, as there are usually multiple workers on site, heavy equipment in use, and other potential dangers. There are three possible causes of burns in this type of workplace:
- When exposed to or in touch with heat
- Electrical components
- Potentially harmful chemicals
Because buildings under construction often have fewer safety features, accidents that occur in these areas are more likely to result in severe damage. Most buildings in the city do not yet have fire alarms, sprinklers, firewalls, smoke detectors, and other fire-suppression systems mandated by the NYC Building Code or state law. Although there are many rules in place to prevent accidents like explosions and fires, they nonetheless happen with disturbing regularity despite OSHA’s best efforts.
Typical Burn Mishaps On Construction Sites
There is always a cause behind a construction site fire, as buildings rarely catch fire for no apparent reason. Negligence, which is based on a failure to exercise reasonable care, is often a contributing cause of fires. Examples of common fires causes on construction sites include:
- Burns from the caustic cement-and-water mixture
- Explosions caused by gas buildup
- Fires caused by “hot work” activities such as welding, soldering, grinding, and others
- Spilled chemicals
- An explosion of flammable or combustible material
- Short circuits from makeshift power sources
- Fires and explosions from makeshift heaters
- Explosions involving lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, used in numerous construction tools
- Employees who smoke
- Exploding pipes
Burn Injury Types
Minor to serious injuries can result from fires, explosions, and other burn mishaps. First-degree burns are the least severe, as rated by the Mayo Clinic. Sunburns, for instance, only damage the skin’s surface. There may be some redness and mild discomfort on the skin’s surface.
When a burn is considered second-degree, it has burned through the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) and into the deeper layer of skin (the dermis). Extreme discomfort is felt, and the skin may develop red spots. Because of the discomfort caused by the injury, your body may respond by forming blisters to relieve the pressure and heat. In addition, they can cause severe scarring.
In a third-degree burn, not only does the outside layer of skin (the epidermis) get charred, but the dermis and sometimes even the fatty tissue beneath the skin are destroyed. Despite the obvious harm done to your nerves, you might not feel any discomfort. The scarring can be noticeable, and your skin may appear burnt and leathery. If the skin has been severely damaged, it may be required to undergo skin graft surgery.
What To Do In The Event Of A Fire Or Explosion
You should get medical attention immediately if you were hurt in an explosion or burn at work. If you are hurt and can’t take care of it on your own, you should alert staff or other workers and let them know you need immediate attention.
After you’ve gotten medical attention, there are a few things you may do to begin investigating what happened on the job site that led to the accident.
- Documenting the accident site using photographic or video evidence
- Make a note of the names and phone numbers of witnesses to the accident or medical personnel who assisted with your treatment.
- Outline details about any potentially faulty equipment nearby or being used at the time of the accident.
- If you’ve been injured and are wondering whether you have a case for financial compensation, you should speak with a professional personal injury attorney.
Consultation with a burn injury lawyer is especially important if you are unable to collect this information due to the severity of your injuries or if you need assistance collecting this data for a loved one who has passed away so that you and your family can learn about any legal rights you may have.
Workers’ Rights In Construction Site Fires And Explosions
Construction incidents, including fires, burns, and explosions, are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation system. Benefits for workers who qualify are administered by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. If you get burned at work, workers’ comp might pay for things like:
- Medical Payments: All your necessary medical costs from your work-related accident or illness.
- Lost Earnings: If you become unemployed, you are eligible for benefits and your lost earnings.
- Benefits For Funerals: If a construction site fire killed your parent, spouse, or kid, workers’ compensation covers your funeral costs up to a specified amount.
Filing a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer is another option for obtaining these benefits. The state of New York mandates that any company with employees on a building site have insurance in the case of a fire or other accident. Claiming workers’ compensation may be your only option in some situations. It’s also important to remember that non-monetary losses like emotional distress are not compensable under the current system.
Are Burn Injuries Suable In A Lawsuit?
In some circumstances, workers’ compensation payments are not your only option for obtaining compensation; instead, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit or file a third-party injury claim to recover damages. The following circumstances may qualify you for further compensation for your burn injuries:
- Under the legislation, your employer isn’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
- The fire was caused by intentional activity.
- The incident occurred due to the acts of a third party.
Burn Injury Third-Party Liability
Everyone and anything on the building site could be considered a third party. You might be able to file a personal injury claim, for instance, if you suffered burn injuries as a result of a general contractor or subcontractor, a supplier of goods or supplies, the manufacturer of the flawed product or other supply-chain participants, the property’s proprietor, manager, or other body in charge, a designer, architect, or engineer.
Your burn injuries may qualify you to file a claim for damages against a third party to receive compensation for:
- Healthcare costs
- Benefits and wages lost
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional pain
- Loss of potential income
- Lower quality of life
Unfortunately, construction sites are a common source of burn injuries that could have been prevented if proper safety measures had been taken. Workers who suffer burn injuries on the job in New York have the right to seek compensation from those responsible for their injuries.
Workers’ compensation protects employees from lawsuits filed by their employers, although employees have recourse against other parties, such as the general contractor or another subcontractor. Workers who sustain injuries on the job should consult with an experienced NYC construction accident lawyer for legal counsel and to seek financial compensation for their injuries, lost wages, and damages.