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This is one record, like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak and Wilt Chamberlain’s single game scoring record, that we could all hope would never be broken.

Unfortunately we were wrong.

Last year, 13 workers died and one was critically injured in construction accidents in Southern Arizona, according to a recent article in the Arizona Daily Star. This broke the old record for 13 deaths/catastrophic injuries in Southern Arizona, set in 2000. Statewide, 20 workers were killed in construction accidents last year — in the last three months of 2005 alone. So why the increase in construction accidents in Arizona last year?

We are still in a boom market for the construction industry, with everything from residential, commercial and industrial construction projects on the rise. With increased demand, there is additional pressure on construction companies to either increase employee workload, hire and quickly train inexperienced workers, or a combination of the two. Combining productivity pressure with insufficient or inadequate safety programs creates an unsafe environment and a recipe for disaster.

Wnen a construction worker is injured on the jobsite, what remedies are available to provide compensation for injuries? Ordinarily worker’s compensation provides protection to the injured worker and provides all necessary and reasonable medical care. Workers compensation does not provide any compensation for pain and suffering and provides only limited compensation for loss of earnings. When an employee is injured on a jobsite, the nature of the hazard may suggest that another employer, subcontractor or even the site’s general contractor may bear responsibility for the worker’s injuries.

Under Arizona law, general contractors owe a duty to provide a reasonably safe work environment for ALL workers, including employees of subcontractors. Better oversight by general contractors over the work of its subcontractors, the fostering of clearer communication among the various subcontractors on a jobsite, and strict adherence to OSHA regulations regarding the safe use of equipment and avoidance of hazardous conditions will lead to safer work environments and fewer injuries and deaths on construction sites throughout Arizona.

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