AK construction workers file brain-damage injury claims against plant owner
- Three construction workers have filed suit against oilfield services company Baker Hughes alleging that unsafe working conditions at a company plant they were building in Kenai, AK, back in 2014 resulted in brain damage, according to the Merced Sun-Star.
- The men, employees of Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, claim that while they were working on a new building, toxic chemical gas was being vented out of an existing building approximately 40 feet away, according to KTVA. The workers said that the chemical being directed at their work area was a corrosion inhibitor that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had deemed hazardous and potentially damaging to the central nervous system.
- Alaska Occupational Safety and Health (AKOSH) fined a Baker Hughes subsidiary $1,050 after an investigation into the incident. The company is contesting the lawsuit based on a law that the company said prevents an injured worker from suing a property owner if that worker has received workers' compensation benefits.
Even though workers' compensation laws generally prevent workers from suing their employers if they receive workers' compensation benefits, some states like New York allow injured workers to sue third parties for work-related injuries.
In an effort to control workers' compensation and lost-time costs, as well as to create a culture of safety on their projects, many construction companies have increased their focus on worker well-being. Dan Della-Giustina, corporate safety director at Consigli Construction in Milford, MA, told Construction Dive last year that the company's safety policy is steered by six factors, and one of the most important is humanization.
Della-Giustina said the company has previously placed posters with photos of workers' family members around the job site and that it was effective at reminding employees why there was so much emphasis on jobsite safety. "At the end of the day," he said, "you're safe because you want to return home to your family — because that's really what's important."
A company that places a high priority on worker safety can also expect to benefit in other areas of their business. According to an April 2016 Dodge Data & Analytics report, contractors who treated safety as an important part of operations had greater project ROI, better employee retention rates and, in a time of limited availability of skilled labor, were able to draw in more employees compared to those companies that did not have strong safety programs.
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