Tag Archives: construction workers

Construction Workers, Independent Contractors, Workers’ Comp & You

December 4, 2012 By Rebecca Shafer, J.D.

sign posts with factors to consider for hiring independent contractorsWho Is and Isn’t Covered by Workers’ Comp in Construction?

Employers in the construction industry are often perplexed as to who they should cover with their workers’ compensation insurance policy.  Full-time employees are covered, but what about part-time employees, day laborers, leased employees, borrowed employees and occasional volunteer work by a family member?  In most states all of these types of employees will be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance policy.  However, independent contractors are normally excluded from coverage by the workers’ compensation insurance policy.

The issue that arises most often between independent contractors and construction company employers is when the independent contractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance of his/her own and is injured while working for the employer.  When the injury is severe and the independent contractor does not have workers’ compensation coverage, often the independent contractor will try to collect workers’ compensation benefits from the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.

Employers Coverage Denys Claims From Independent Contractors

The employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will normally deny the claim as the insurer has not collected any premium for the additional exposure of the independent contractor.  The independent contractor (and his/her attorney) will often turn to the Workers’ Compensation Board/Industrial Commission and ask the governing authority to rule on whether or not there is coverage for the independent contractor.

The Board or Commission will normally look closely for any reason where they can classify the independent contractor as an employee of the construction company employer.  If the employer has not complied with all the requirements of hiring the independent contractor as an independent contractor, the Board or Commission will find the injured worker to be an employee.

Construction Employers Need to Know Law

For the construction company employer to protect itself from workers’ compensation claims of independent contractors claiming workers’ compensation benefits, the employer should know the law pertaining to independent contractors in their state.  Many states follow the federal government guidelines outlined in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  On the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times that there is not a single issue that makes a worker an independent contractor as opposed to an employee, but a preponderance of all the information surrounding the independent contractor-employer relationship.

Federal Fair Labor Standards Act 

Per FLSA, the following issues define whether or not the worker is an independent contractor or an employee:

1.    The extent to which the services rendered are an integral part of the principal’s business

Continue reading Construction Workers, Independent Contractors, Workers’ Comp & You

Temporary or Part-Time Workers have 50 Percent Higher Injury Rate than Permanent Workers

By ReduceYourWorkersComp

Part time help wanted sign but be carefullA recent report from Safe Work Australia found that temporary or part-time workers recorded a work-related injury rate 50 percent higher than permanent workers in 2009-10 with females reporting a significantly higher rate of injuries per hour worked than males.

The report, Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age (2009-2010), examines the work-related injury experience of male and female workers across different age groups.

The report also provides data that can assist industry identify demographics where work health and safety can be improved.

In 2009-10, close to 640 000 workers reported they had suffered a work-related injury which is close to triple the population of a city the size of Hobart reporting a work-related injury.

While males recorded a 19 percent fall in the number of injuries incurred at work since 2005-06 the number for females increased by 11 percent. Although the decrease is reassuring the fact injury rates for females increased indicates that as a nation more effort is needed to improve work health and safety for our workers.

Other key findings of the report include:

● Temporary or part-time workers reported 54 injuries per million hours worked compared with a rate of 35 for those with leave entitlements.
● Working under shift arrangements or as a part-time worker was also associated with higher rates of injury. Half of all female workers worked part-time in 2009-10.
● For each hour worked females had a 28 percent higher risk of injury compared with male workers.
● High rates of injury were experienced in the accommodation and food services industry. This industry has high levels of temporary or part-time and part-time work.
● The most common cause of injury across all age groups was sprain/strain.
● Workers aged 15-24 recorded rates of injury substantially higher than other age groups.

Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-10 is available at: www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

And You Thought Walking UNDER a Ladder Was Bad Luck!

man on ladder that's on top of a ladder
Watch your steps

Per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) there were 774 deaths among construction workers on the job in 2011. Falls accounted for 264 fatalities and were the leading cause of death for construction workers. The sad part is most of the fatalities could have been prevented with proper construction site safety. Falls also cause numerous non-fatal injuries. With proper fall prevention incorporated into the safety program, a significant portion of the non-fatal accidents on constructions sites could be avoided as well.

The risk of a fall is presented whenever employees are on an elevated surface – ladders, scaffolds, bridges or roofs.  Employers need to recognize the potential dangers involved and plan the work in a way that will allow its completion while reducing the risk of injury. This includes determining what safety equipment is needed and how it will be used to prevent the possibility of a fall.

OSHA regulations require any worker six feet or higher above the lower level to have “personal fall arrest systems”.  These could include a safety harness or a system of railings around the edges of the work surface to keep the employee protected from the edge and a fall.

The employer needs to be conscientious to provide the right equipment for the job. Ladders that are too short, scaffolding that has seen better days, or worn out safety gear is an invitation to a workers’ compensation claim. The equipment and gear provided to the employees should be appropriate for the job.

Planning the work with safety in mind and providing the proper safety equipment will not prevent injuries if the employees do not know how to use it correctly.Employers often take it for granted that employees know how to use ladders or scaffolding, but improper use of equipment is the most common reason for accidents.

When working at heights of six foot or higher, the most effective “personal fall arrest systems” is a full body harness, a rope-grab lifeline, and connectors. The full body harness uses D-rings to connect the body harness to the rope-grab lifeline. The rope-grab lifeline is securely attached to the roof, scaffolding or other surface that is structurally strong enough to support the employee’s full weight in the event of a fall.

Fall prevention on construction sites will save the employer significantly on the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, as fall prevention will lower both the frequency and severity of the accidents that do happen. By planning the job, providing the right equipment, and training the employees on the its proper use, employers can eliminate most falls, save lives and reduce the number of injuries.

Construction Workers Experience Significant Lifetime Risk of Occupational Injury, Premature Death

young Hispanic construction worker with word "peligro" on his hard hatAnd 20 percent higher risk for Hispanic workers.

Washington, D.C. – Nearly all construction workers will experience one or more work-related injuries or illnesses over a lifetime plus a greater risk of premature death, according to new data released today at the American Public Health Association’s 139th Annual Meeting.

Using multiple years of data from several national sources, including the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, researchers from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training estimate that over a 45-year career a construction worker has a 75 percent likelihood of experiencing a disabling injury. Additionally, over the course of a career, the same worker has a one in 200 chance of being fatally injured on the job. A Hispanic construction worker has a 20 percent higher likelihood of dying from a work-related injury.

The study also reveals that an individual who begins construction work at the age of 20 has a 15 percent chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease over a lifetime and an 11 percent chance of developing dust-related parenchymal chest X-ray changes.

“While great strides have been made in reducing construction injuries and illnesses, the numbers are still stubbornly high,” said Pete Stafford, executive director of CPWR. “Workers and their families suffer the consequences of disabling injuries, and this research shows it’s far too common. So we must continue to raise awareness of the problems – and hope to see our research findings put to use to reduce construction fatalities, injuries and illnesses.”

Researchers note that using cross-sectional data, the traditional method of presenting occupational safety and health, tends to underestimate risk. Presenting risk based over a lifetime presents a more accurate estimate.

For more information, please contact APHA Communications at (202) 777-2509 or mediarelations@apha.org .

Session 3256: Lifetime risk of occupational injuries and illnesses among construction workers

Date: Monday, October 31, 2011: 12:30 PM
Researcher: Xiuwen Sue Dong, DrPH, Laura Welch, MD, John Dement, PhD, CIH, and Knut Ringen, DrPH