Construction Boom from Chinese Investment in West Virginia: The Increased Dangers for Industry Workers
We recently reported on a story about China Energy Investment Corporation investing $83.7 billion into the West Virginia oil and gas industry over the next two decades. The amount of the investment exceeds West Virginia’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) and is sure to create tens of thousands of new jobs. These jobs will not only be in the energy industry, however, but in ancillary industries that will support the influx of energy workers.
A recent example of this phenomenon happened in North Dakota. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, oil workers were flocking to various parts of North Dakota for high-paying jobs related to the fracking boom. For a few years, there were severe housing shortages, and many workers slept in vehicles, rented bunks or other temporary accommodations. For several years, they could not build houses and apartment buildings fast enough, and any type of restaurant, retail store or entertainment establishment was almost guaranteed to prosper.
If the same situation occurs in West Virginia, construction jobs will be at a premium as builders struggle to put up enough structures to house, feed, clothe, and entertain energy workers. It is also highly likely that more highway and road construction projects will need to be initiated to accommodate the new infrastructure and allow workers easier access to job sites and nearby towns.
Like working in the oil and gas industry, construction is a very dangerous profession. Workers are often placed in hazardous environments using dangerous tools and heavy equipment and machinery. At the same time, construction companies frequently cut corners by not following safety standards and industry best practices. This becomes even more prevalent during a boom like West Virginia is experiencing when companies are rushing to complete lucrative projects, so they can cash in on the favorable economic environment.
There are several hazards construction workers are regularly exposed to, some of the most common include:
- Ladder and Scaffolding Accidents: When ladders and scaffolds are poorly designed, poorly placed, or both, it poses a serious hazard to workers, particularly those working at dangerous heights. This can result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities from slips and falls and similar incidents.
- Heavy Equipment Accidents: Incompetent or reckless operation of cranes, backhoes, bulldozers, and other types of heavy machinery and equipment can cause severe accidents, injuries, and fatalities. This happened recently to an out-of-state gas exploration worker who was struck and killed by a track hoe that lost control.
- Being Struck by Falling Objects: On a typical construction site, there are several jobs being performed at the same time. If workers are under pressure to make deadlines and/or are not properly supervised, they may not see loose and falling debris; such as shingles, plywood, sheetrock, nails, etc. until it strikes and injures them.
- Chemical and Hazardous Substance Exposure: Construction workers are routinely exposed to toxic substances while on the job. This can lead to both short-term and long-term health conditions.
- Electrical Accidents: Electrocutions, gas explosions, fires, and similar incidents are common on construction sites. When these incidents occur, they can cause severe burns and other serious injuries and fatalities to multiple workers.
The Construction Boom and West Virginia Roadways
One of the biggest hazards construction workers face during a boom occurs when traveling to and from the jobsite. More construction projects means increased truck traffic, and a greater danger of trucking accidents.
In West Virginia, the roads can be treacherous, especially during the winter time. Many of the winding mountain roads are steep and difficult for large construction vehicles to navigate even when the roads are dry. When you add snow and ice to the equation, the conditions become far more hazardous.
Another common issue is the condition of the construction vehicles. Many vehicles used for construction are older and not well-maintained. Construction companies frequently look to save money by keeping older vehicles on the road, rather than investing in newer ones. Though these companies are typically earning more than enough money to provide decent vehicles for their workers, all too often, they look at the bottom line rather than the safety and well-being of those they employ.
Auto defects and failure to properly maintain vehicles are not the only reasons for commercial vehicle accidents. Other common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Distracted Driving (e.g., texting while driving, eating, talking on the phone, etc.)
- Brakes, Steering and Tires failure
- Careless or Reckless Driving
- Driving while Intoxicated
- Drowsy Driving (due to driver fatigue, sleep disorders, etc.)
- Overloaded or Improperly Loaded Cargo
- Poorly Trained Drivers
Who is Liable for Injuries from a Construction Accident?
Severe injuries and fatalities due to construction and truck-related accidents can be complex and challenging cases to pursue. On a typical job site, there are numerous contractors and subcontractors working alongside each other. For this reason, a thorough investigation must be conducted to determine the exact cause of the incident and who is at fault. If the accident is the fault of you or your employer, it will most likely become a worker’s compensation claim. If your employer is involved in the injury, you may have BOTH a workers’ compensation and a personal injury case under WV law. Construction and well sites are almost always multiemployer workplaces under OSHA regulations and there are multiple parties responsible for safe working conditions and equipment. Therefore, you need an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer to assess the responsibilities of all parties on those sites under federal and state workplace safety regulations. If the accident is the fault of a third-party contractor/subcontractor or a product manufacturer, you may also be able to bring a personal injury and/or product liability action against the responsible party.
If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in a construction accident in West Virginia, it is important to have a strong legal advocate by your side. Construction and trucking companies and their insurers have multiple high-priced attorneys on retainer whose job it is to minimize their liability in these types of cases. Before discussing the case with your employer and/or the insurer of the responsible party, contact our office at (304) 345-0346 for a free, no-obligation consultation. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter are ready to protect your rights.