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The construction industry's top five safety hazards

In New Jersey, as in other states, construction workers run a high risk of getting into accidents. Though they comprise 6 percent of the population, construction workers make up 20 percent of all private sector employee deaths. The following are the top five safety hazards that they encounter on construction sites and how they can mitigate them.

Fall protection and prevention equipment, such as hard hats and nonslip boots on the one hand and guardrails and safety nets on the other, can go a long way toward preventing falls, which is the leading cause of death among construction workers. Employers should also ensure that elevated work surfaces are stable and free of holes. People should be trained on the safe use of ladders and scaffolding.

Being struck by objects is the second hazard. Workers who position themselves between moving and fixed objects can be struck by cranes or forklifts. Clear vehicle routes are essential in preventing such incidents. Third, workers are prone to electrical hazards, so they should be able to locate and identify utilities and watch out for overhead power lines.

Trenches that are 5 feet or deeper require trench wall support and other safety measures. If not, they lead to the fourth leading cause of death: caught-in-between accidents. The last risk is exposure to toxic chemicals. Chemicals should be clearly labeled on material safety data sheets for workers to refer to.

If an employer's negligence leads to an accident, the victim can choose between filing a personal injury claim and filing a workers' compensation claim. The latter will cover medical expenses; short- or long-term disability leave, if applicable; and a percentage of lost wages. A workers' comp attorney could guide the victim through the process and even mount an appeal if the claim is denied. A lawyer could also discuss the pros and cons of striving for a lump-sum settlement.

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