Have you suffered an accident on a building site or in a construction industry setting? If so, you may have certain questions in mind regarding your employer’s responsibilities and whether you are eligible to make a claim * against them. On this page you will find some general guidance relating to typical injuries sustained in construction environments.
Instigating a claim for negligence
Generally speaking construction has improved significantly over the years from the point of view of equipment and training etc. In determining liability for accidents in the construction sector, you would want to see what specific certification an employee has and whether or not any specific hazards were pointed out to them. You will almost invariably find that in cases involving a claim for negligence involving an accident at work in the construction industry, a claim of contributory negligence is likely to be made by the employer.
Contributory negligence arises where someone who suffers an accident has in some way contributed to their own injuries by their own negligence. Therefore, in a construction setting it would be very important to see what health and safety courses were afforded to the employee and what direction they were given in terms of carrying out the activity that lead to the accident. For instance, an employer might allege that the employee was trained and didn’t follow the procedures in which they were trained, or wasn’t looking out for their own safety, weren’t wearing proper equipment that was provided, or wasn’t using equipment as they were trained, etc. It is important to bear in mind that while contributory negligence is often pleaded in defence of claims in this context, the mere allegation of it is not by any means conclusive and it is for the employer to prove contributory negligence. It may often be raised primarily as a negotiating tactic.
Accidents in the construction industry are particular prevalently when working on ladders, working at heights and on scaffolding, etc. Wind tends to be a large factor here where ladders can get blown over or the employee is caused to lose their grip or balance. In these situations the question is whether it was reasonable to expect the employee to be doing the tasks in question in that manner in the weather conditions that were prevailing at the time. It comes down to a question of whose decision it was to go up the ladder or onto the height in those conditions.
If an employee is directed by a superior to do a job then the employee, unless they were going to become insubordinate, would have to do it. If objectively it’s unreasonably hazardous then there could be an argument that an employee could be responsible in contributory negligence for not refusing to do what has been asked on the grounds that it is unsafe. However, realistically, given the power imbalance that exists between an employer and an employee, if an employee is specifically directed to do a task in a particular manner, no matter how plainly unsafe it is, it is going to be very difficult for them to refuse to do so and if that leads to a foreseeable accident then the employer is likely to be found liable as a result, with no finding of contributory negligence being made against the employee.
Working on cherry pickers or mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) can also involve significant risk of accident in the construction industry. Mechanical failure with the hydraulic lifts, electrical failure with the control or other problems with the machinery can lead to very serious injury, particularly when the platform is extended at a height.
Working at height involves risk for those employees working overhead, but also for employees and others working or moving about underneath from the risk of falling debris, material or equipment. The use of correct harnesses and other safety equipment such as netting will be critically important here, together with the wearing of hard hats etc. by those below. Loading and unloading at height poses particular risks, as does use of dangerous equipment at height which compounds the possibility of injury and proximity to power lines etc.
About McCarthy + Co
With more than 30 years of experience in dealing with personal injury claims *, McCarthy + Co. has expertise in a wide variety of fields including workplace and road traffic accidents. We are a family-run business, who pride ourselves on offering honest, impartial and helpful advice.
Our offices are based in Dublin and Cork but we have worked with clients throughout Ireland in locations ranging from Galway to Waterford. If you have suffered an injury on a building site or within a construction setting, we can provide expert guidance and advice regarding the handling of your personal injury claim *.
Get in contact with our personal injury solicitors today to make a start on your claim * or gather more information. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.