A construction job site can offer plenty of ways for workers to get injured, or even killed. While most people accept that construction accidents are part of working a job, one topic that does not get discussed very much is protecting bystanders.
What is the contractor liability for a bystander who gets hurt or killed? There are construction codes in place that are designed to protect the public, but are they enough to make sure that non-construction workers do not get injured as the result of construction work?
Construction Saftey Includes Both Workers And Bystanders
The process of protecting workers and bystanders begins months before the project begins when construction companies hire third-party safety experts to outline plans to keep a job site safe. In New York City, contractors working on projects 15 stories or higher or 100,000 square feet or larger must have a certified site safety manager on the job whenever there is work going on.
While the larger construction companies can afford to hire safety consultants, safety is also a concern on smaller job sites where smaller construction companies may not have the capital to hire a safety expert. Regardless of what the size of the project or the company may be, the safety of pedestrians is a concern to every construction company.
The Reality Of Non-Construction Worker Injuries
In big cities like New York City, the statistics involving bystanders being injured on or near construction job sites are rarely kept. But the Wall Street Journal has managed to compile numbers that indicate that 96 bystanders were injured near New York City construction job sites from 2008 to 2014. In 2015, a young pedestrian was walking to work with her fiancee when a sheet of plywood from a nearby construction fence was blown off by the wind, struck her, and killed her.
Bystander deaths near construction sites are rare, but not uncommon. A small contractor in Philadelphia mismanaged his project that was right next door to a Salvation Army store. Because of the contractor’s neglect, the brick wall he was working on collapsed onto the Salvation Army and killed six people. While construction companies never intend for anyone to get hurt on a job site, the truth is that people who are not even working in construction are getting injured from job site activities on a fairly regular basis.
How Construction Companies Protect The Public
There are several ways that construction companies attempt to protect the public when a job site is active.Some of those ways include covering sidewalks and workers who direct traffic to avoid collisions between construction vehicles and vehicles driving on the road. There are also several construction codes in effect all throughout the country that dictate the minimum measures construction companies have to take to legally consider a job site to be safe.
But the truth is that an injured pedestrian means bad publicity for the construction company and a potential flurry of lawsuits. When a worker drops a hammer from five stories up, that issue is more controlled by company safety policies than it is by construction codes. It does not matter what size a construction company may be, it has to take bystander safety seriously and conduct a significant amount of planning to make sure that every job site is safe.
The Limitations Of Focusing On Public Safety
What are the limits of contractor liability when it comes to protecting the public? In one case, a contractor was working with decorative stones that blew off the top of the building and struck a bystander four blocks away. While a contractor has some level of control over what happens in the immediate area of the job site, sometimes it is unrealistic to expect a contractor to be able to completely protect the public. With this in mind, contractors need to learn to communicate with the public to offer maximum protection.
Construction work blocks roads, creates dust, gives off a lot of noise, and presents a level of danger to the public. When a construction company does what it can to protect the public without talking to the public about what it considers important, then there will be tension. When a neighborhood knows that construction is soon to take place, the people in that neighborhood tend to be more patient when they know what kind of work is being done, and how long it will last. The people in the neighborhood will also gladly follow safety rules designed to protect them from harm if they know what those rules are.
Construction is a dangerous business for everyone from the crane operators to the people who pass by the site every day. Whether it is material falling on moving vehicles or fence pieces coming loose and striking a pedestrian, there are always dangers at a construction job site. But with some planning and communication with the local population, contractors can take significant steps towards making their job sites safer for the people who are just passing by.