Harris County Construction Accidents Tragically Kill At Least 100 Workers Every Year
Houston was recently named a top city for construction workers due to the high demand for their services.
But while the industry might be booming, an alarming death rate suggests construction workers across the Metro Region aren’t fairing so well. In fact, according to statistics from the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), at least 100 Harris County construction workers die on the job every year.
Reducing Harris County Construction Worker Fatalities a Top Priority in 2023
On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners vowed that reducing the region’s troubling rate of construction worker deaths will be a top priority in 2023.
“They are the ones that are truly building this country,” said Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
“When we are putting that type of responsibility on their shoulders, we ought to be taking care of those shoulders just the same.”
The Harris County Contractor Safety Record Policy is intended to do just that.
An initiative of the Build Houston Better coalition, the policy seeks to upgrade and expand workplace protections for employees and contractors in the county. Among other things, it requires managers and employees overseeing manual labor to undergo OSHA safety training – provided and paid for by their employers.
Any businesses that have shown a “willful disregard” for worker safety would also be temporarily banned from bidding on county construction projects. This includes companies that have been convicted of a crime after a worker’s death or severe injury, as well as any included on OSHA’s worst of the worst list for workers’ safety issue.
Most Houston Construction Deaths Are Preventable
The fact is, most Harris County construction deaths are preventable.
According to Paul Puente of the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Council, a lack of inspection staff makes it difficult for OSHA to enforce federal safety guidelines. The absence of clear standards or enforcement in Texas also doesn’t help.
“This state has been a very pro-employer state, which is a good thing. But sometimes we need to kind of look at the statistics,” Puente said.
“Folks get up and go to work, and they don’t know if they are going to come back home,” he continued. “That’s impactful because these are individuals that are at the table with their families, and that’s an empty seat.”
What to Do After a Houston Construction Accident
While losing a loved one to a construction accident is absolutely devastating, it’s crucial that surviving family members not allow shock and grief to prevent them from taking the necessary steps to protect their rights and their future.
Don’t Put Faith in the Employer or Its Insurer: They only care about protecting their profits by limiting your recovery to whatever Worker’s Comp benefits you might be entitled to.
Don’t Count on Worker’s Comp: In Texas, survivors are entitled to just 75% of their loved one’s average weekly wages, subject to a statutory weekly maximum of $895. That probably won’t cover all of your family’s monthly expenses, and it certainly won’t come close to compensating you and your family for loss of consortium, physical impairment, mental anguish, or any of the other damages you could potentially recover by filing a wrongful death lawsuit and survival claims.
Don’t Assume You Can’t Take Legal Action: Texas allows surviving family members to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit when a worker’s death results from gross negligence, as well as a “survival” claim for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish inflicted on their loved one due to the company’s negligence. Texas also permits families to recover “exemplary damages” (also known as punitive damages) when a workplace fatality results from a willful act, omission, or gross negligence.
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