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What Should You Do When There is an Accident on Your Construction Site

Originally posted November 11, 2013 by Matt DeVries on http://www.bestpracticesconstructionlaw.com

You probably saw last month’s report about a second work-related fatality at the construction site of the San Francisco 49er’s new football stadium. Police and fire investigators have determined that the truck driver’s death was a workplace accident and not a crime.

The delivery truck driver was reportedly crushed by a bundle of rebar being unloaded from his truck. It’s the second worker death at the construction project. Examples like this are good reminders of the lessons to learn when investigating or handling an accident on a construction site. These include:

  • Prepare before the accident. It is important to prepare before the accident by having a checklist or best practices protocol to follow if an accident should occur.  This should include identifying chain of command for notice purposes, identifying internal investigation team members, identifying who will be a company spokesperson, and identifying your risk management team (insurance and legal).
  • Act diligently when an accident occurs.  Don’t waste all that preparation time before the accident and then not follow your protocol.  Make sure medical issues are resolved immediately and lock down the site for evidence preservation.  Make a list of all witnesses. Photograph and video the conditions.
  • Organize post-accident activities.  There may be contractual obligations, regulatory requirements and public relation issues that will come after the accident occurs.  Make sure that you review your contract to comply with any notice requirements that may need to be given.  If OSHA becomes involved in the workplace accident, then prepare for the investigation with your safety team and risk management team.
  • Manage the accident documents.  While on the job site, an investigator may ask to see certain records such as the OSHA 300 logs, safety manuals, first aid / medical records, training records, safety meeting minutes, inspection records, and accident reports. In order to keep track of what has been requested and provided to the investigator, make a list of all requested documents and keep a transmittal log of how various documents were transmitted.
  • Understand privileges.  Please note that accident reports should be reviewed by your attorney prior to production to any investigator.  Accident reports should be limited to the facts and should not contain any speculative theories or guesses as to why an accident occurred. If your attorney has directed the preparation of the accident report, that report is privileged and should not be produced to the inspector.

Most construction companies, at some point in their life, will experience a job site accident. It is important for your company to have a plan in place for the day.  What lessons learned can you share?