Vehicles, rockets, aircraft, ships, rail cars, buildings—almost every major industrial project requires the skills of a welder. Welding is a critically essential skill for our nation’s infrastructure, but it can be an extremely dangerous undertaking.
More than 357,000 welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers were employed in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that more than 500,000 workers perform welding, cutting, and brazing every year in a variety of industries. For every 1,000 welders, more than four will suffer a fatal injury on the job.
When working outdoors, welders are often exposed to inclement weather or high temperatures, which is exacerbated by the extreme heat produced by welding equipment. When working indoors, welders sometimes have to operate in a tightly confined area or in awkward positions. Welders are often required to work high off the ground and lift heavy objects while on the job, increasing the risk of workplace injuries.
Your hard work and commitment as a welding professional should never result in pain and illness.
If you or a loved one has been injured while welding in unsafe work conditions, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. Our team of trial-proven attorneys will investigate your claim thoroughly and ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries.
What Are the Common Injuries Associated With Welding Accidents?
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are exposed to a number of safety hazards on the job, including intense light given off by the electric arc and very hot materials. The main welding-related hazards, according to OSHA, include:
- Severe burns
- Eye damage, including blindness and diminished vision
- Electrical shocks
- Skin lacerations
- Crushed toes and fingers
- Exposure to hazardous fumes and gases, which can cause lung, brain, and nerve damage
Welders are also at risk for manganism (commonly known as Welders’ Parkinson’s Disease). Manganese is a naturally occurring substance found in the soil, air, water, and food, but if exposed at higher levels, it can have serious neurological effects. A study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that welders have average manganese levels twice that of the upper limits of normal exposure, and research has shown that workers regularly exposed to welding fumes have an increased risk of developing brain damage in the same area affected by Parkinson’s disease.
What Safety Requirements Are In Place To Protect Workers?
OSHA has developed a comprehensive set of regulations and safety standards to protect welders, cutters, and brazers. The administration identified certain hazards and solutions, as well as general requirements for worksites. General requirements for welding safety include:
- Fire prevention and protection: All movable fire hazards in the vicinity must be taken to a safe place if the object to be welded cannot be moved; if moving the object or the fire hazards is not possible, guards must be used to confine the heat, sparks, and slag; precautions must be taken to prevent combustible materials from being exposed to sparks that fall through floor openings or cracks; fire extinguishers, buckets of sand, pails or water, or water hoses must be well-maintained and readily available in case the need arises.
- Prohibited areas: Cutting or welding is not permitted in areas not authorized by management; in buildings without working sprinklers; in the area of explosive conditions like flammable gases, vapors, dusts, or liquids; or in areas near large quantities of exposed and readily ignitable materials like sulfur, paper, or cotton.
- Proper management: Supervisors must establish areas and proper procedures for cutting and welding based on fire risks; management must ensure welders and cutters are properly trained in the safe operation of the equipment and determine combustible materials and hazardous areas in the work area.
- Accidental contact: All electrodes must be removed from the holders and holders carefully located so no workers come into accidental contact with hot equipment; torch valves must be closed and gas supply cut off when the torch will not be used for a period of time, such as lunch or overnight.
- Worker protection: Management must provide proper platforms, scaffolds, or runways that minimize the risk of falls using railings, safety belts, lifelines, or other fall protection systems; helmets or hand shields must be used during arc welding or cutting operations; goggles or other appropriate eye protection must be used during all gas welding or oxygen cutting; all operators and attendants of resistance welding or brazing equipment must use transparent face shields or goggles.
A full list of safety requirements for welders is available on the OSHA website.
Who Is Liable for a Welding Injury?
If a worksite is unsafe and presents unreasonable hazards to workers, supervisors or contractors could have committed an OSHA violation. Supervisors, general contractors, subcontractors, floor managers, equipment manufacturers, and other industrial managers must adhere to certain safety standards to minimize the risk of injury; failure to do so is a serious offense and can put workers at a high risk for injury or illness.
The circumstances of your particular injury will determine who is most at fault for the lapse in safety. If the injury was the result of careless maintenance (or lack thereof), it can be the worksite supervisor or immediate supervisor’s fault for failing to ensure safe conditions. If the welding equipment itself was unsafe, you could have a case against the equipment manufacturer for product liability. If the workers are pushed too hard to meet a deadline and forced to battle fatigue to work long hours, the project manager or general contractor could be found at fault for on-the-job injuries.
What Can You Win in a Personal Injury Case?
There are two types of damages in personal injury cases: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the economic and non-economic costs of an injury. There is no limit on compensatory damages in New Jersey; this means you are entitled to compensation for any and all provable damages, including:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and decreased future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium or enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are more rare, and they are designed to punish the negligent party for particularly reckless behavior, egregious conduct, or intention to cause harm. Punitive damages are limited to $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages (whichever is greater) in the state of New Jersey.
If a welder is killed as a result of unsafe working conditions, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death suits are filed by the decedent’s estate or heirs—typically his or her spouse and children who received benefits from the deceased during his or her life.
Under the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, surviving family members are eligible to recover the actual financial losses of the decedent’s income, as well as the value of the services, assistance, training, guidance, care, counsel, advice, and companionship the family members would have received from the deceased. Plaintiffs in wrongful death claims are also entitled to compensation for medical expenses and funeral costs.
Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in New Jersey is two years; in other words, you must file suit within two years or forfeit your right to compensation for injuries. It is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to ensure your claim is fully investigated within the given time frame.
Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have extensive experience litigating personal injury claims, including several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Our proven track record of fighting for clients—both in and out of the courtroom—is a representation of our commitment to justice and dedication to holding the negligent party accountable. Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 or fill out a quick inquiry form to schedule your consultation. The initial consultation is always free and confidential, and no fees are required until we win your case.