The blame game in construction site accidents: A case study
Construction sites are inherently dangerous and unpredictable places. That’s why sticking to your own role on a construction site is crucial for safety and efficiency. Each team member is trained for specific tasks and deviating from assigned responsibilities can lead to errors, accidents, or delays in the construction process.
One of our clients, whom I shall call Raymond, learned this to his cost when he suffered a serious brain injury after a heavy metal object fell three storeys from the roof of a building under construction and struck him on the head.
The main contractor of the project (MC) had subcontracted the installation of the building’s pipework to another company (SC1), who subcontracted the task of surveying and coordinating the installation to our client’s employer (SC2).
Our client, a computer-aided draftsman, was instructed by his employer to lay out markings for the pipework that was to be installed on the roof. On his way to do as instructed, he stopped to help two of his colleagues. They were working at ground level, slinging the brackets for the pipework that were to be lifted to the roof by rope and a gin wheel pulley system.
Our client helped sling brackets onto the gin wheel system and after a couple of successful lifts, he slung one more bracket. As the bracket was being hoisted towards the roof it came loose from its sling and fell, striking our client (who was not wearing a safety helmet) on the head and causing him a devasting injury.
We argued the main contractor and both subcontractors were responsible. Between them they had failed, among other things, to properly plan, carry out and monitor the operation to lift the pipework brackets to the roof, failed to give appropriate training, failed to prevent the bracket falling, failed to prevent our client entering beneath the gin wheel pulley stem, and failed to ensure hard hats were worn.
All three defendants denied responsibility, saying our client should not have entered the site without completing a site induction, that it was not his task to assist with lifting the metal brackets – a task for which he was not trained and which he not been instructed to do, that he should have been wearing a hard hat, that a crane, not a pulley lift should have been used to lift the metal brackets and that, ultimately, our client was responsible for his injuries, being plainly careless for his own safety.
The impact of the injury
Raymond’s injuries were devasting. The metal bracket fractured his skull and penetrated his brain leaving him with physical, cognitive, and visual disabilities, and depriving him of his capacity to work or live independently. Although he received some support from the local authority, this ceased after a short time, leaving him reliant on his mother for all his care needs.
Navigating the legal landscape
The law governing work on construction sites is complex and regulations designed to protect the health and safety of construction site workers are extensive. It’s essential solicitors representing injured construction site workers are specialists in this field, to know their way around the law and the regulations and understand how those regulations play out in practice, particularly when multiple contractors and subcontractors blame one another, as well as the injured worker.
It’s also essential solicitors who act for those who sustain severe brain injuries understand the impact such injuries have on the individual concerned, as well as on their family, and take steps to put in place the urgent rehabilitation that is central to an injured person’s recovery and quality of life.
Despite all three defendants denying responsibility, we obtained a substantial early interim payment to provide Raymond with vital early rehabilitation. We helped Raymond appoint a case manager, who coordinated therapies, including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and, neuro-occupational therapy, and recruited a support worker. Through the interim payment, Raymond bought a powered wheelchair to access vital early rehabilitation. Worries about finances and care were also eased, and this allowed Raymond and his family to have more quality time together.
The main contractor and the subcontractors, including Raymond’s employer, argued among themselves, and eventually settled Raymond’s claim for a substantial £6.5 million, ensuring his lifelong care needs will be met and his future is financially secure.
Raymond learned the hard way that:
- Safety comes first: Always prioritise safety on construction sites. This includes wearing appropriate safety gear, such as hard hats, always.
- Protocols are to be followed: Stick to your assigned tasks and responsibilities. Deviating from these can lead to accidents, as it did in Raymond’s case.
- Proper training is essential: Ensure all workers are properly trained for their specific tasks. In Raymond’s case, he was not trained to assist with lifting the metal brackets.
- Communication must be clear: Clear and effective communication is crucial, especially when multiple contractors and subcontractors are involved.
How can we help?
Instructing solicitors who understand the complex laws and regulations governing construction sites is essential, especially when determining responsibility for an accident. In cases of severe injury, such as a severe brain injury, early rehabilitation is vital for recovery and quality of life. As seen in Raymond’s case, specialist solicitors, such as those in the Adult Brain Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp will be prepared for denials of responsibility and persist in pursuing a claim for compensation, securing essential funds at an early stage to ease the immediate financial and carer burdens, and will stop at nothing to achieve the best possible settlement for our clients.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious brain injury on a construction site, contact our experienced and approachable solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury Team. They will listen to your story, free and without obligation, and let you know if they can help.