Lawyer teaches safety on construction sites

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indiana Lawyer Focus

On an occasional Saturday, you may find attorney John Daly teaching a workplace safety course in front of construction workers.

His opening line: “I can tell you how you’re probably going to die.”

The rest depends on who’s sitting in front of him listening: falling from a scaffolding or high place, electrocution, exposure to chemical hazards, or being fatally injured by a power tool or heavy machine.

john daly Daly

His lectures sometimes deviate, as they did most recently in late April when he spoke to a roomful of attorneys about construction law and workplace safety in new construction sites. In seminars for builders and general contractors, he teaches about safety issues weaved into project contracts that if not followed could shut their businesses down.

Daly is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration trainer authorized to teach 10-hour and 30-hour safety courses, which complements his construction law and workplace safety practice with Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad. His work centers on construction-site accidents involving federal and state agencies, and he’s secured high-dollar verdicts and settlements in recent years in cases representing injured ironworkers, electricians, laborers, masons, operators, and other skilled workers.

“There’s a lot of bad that goes on in construction areas,” Daly said. “Those workers on the site end up doing the most dangerous work with lousy instructions and less supervision, and I’ve seen some real bad things in those areas.”

Construction attorney Greg Dale at Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis said many hazards exist in this area and the legal issues can literally be life and death, especially in vertical construction on buildings or roadway construction sites where speeding traffic can be an issue. But he credits Indiana and especially the Indianapolis area for having a high standard for safety.

Organizations like the non-profit Metro Indianapolis Coalition for Construction Safety, Inc. are dedicated to achieving zero injury on construction and facility maintenance job sites, he said.

“Construction is a hazardous work by its nature, and I’ve found it comforting to see response of every major player who supports safety,” he said, referring to data showing Indiana has had some of its best years recently in non-fatal or serious accidents. “I don’t think these efforts are unique to Indiana, but you don’t see it everywhere across the country where companies are banding together on construction safety.”

Lawyers and law firms representing companies that do construction or renovation projects are more forcefully making sure their clients are keeping up with safety protocol and meeting federal and state standards.

In April, law firm Frost Brown Todd reported that OSHA is stepping up enforcement efforts and has cited almost twice as many employers for violations in the first quarter of 2010 than it had for all of the previous year. The national and state agencies are more stringently enforcing existing standards and expanding enforcement under the general duty clause, maximizing penalties for employers charged with safety violations, the firm reports.

For those in Indianapolis, like Daly, that means not only making sure builders and contractors and their lawyers know about the safety requirements, but that workers also know what’s expected and should be happening on sites.

“OSHA teaches companies to avoid fines … I teach to avoid the accidents,” he said. “Little things like making sure electrical cords are up to date. That’s the nickel-and-dime stuff that could end up costing millions if an accident’s caused.”

In his safety seminars, Daly said both the bosses and workers are sometimes reluctant at the start, but they usually become more receptive.

“I let them know that at times I’m the person putting their whole business at risk,” he said. “The idea is so they have an idea of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and how to prevent me from ever getting involved.”

Among the largest issues that construction safety lawyers deal with involve knowing the work sites and procedures taking place there, how equipment is utilized, and that work procedures are put in place, attorneys say. Contract law also is a large part of this work, as Daly often sees general contractor foremen and supervisors not reading the contracts that include safety language for those actually doing the job.

For example, contracts between owners and general contractors often include OSHA regulations and some put in their own language specifics, Daly said. He said Wal-Mart has a practice of including a higher building standard for a mandatory six-foot rule for protection when a worker’s off the ground, he said. That’s not OSHA-required, but something Wal-Mart does and requires of contractors.

“Those rules don’t put any duties on the general contractor per se, but contracts between the owners and general contractors make them liable,” he said. “The first response can be puzzlement, as they don’t realize what their obligations are through these contracts on behalf of those actually doing the jobs. … But turning a blind eye and saying ‘I wasn’t there’ isn’t a sufficient excuse.”

Throughout his career, Daly has handled dozens of construction-site accident cases ranging from scaffolding falls to crane- or equipment-malfunction injuries. Some of his more noteworthy ones include a $10.2 million jury verdict in October to the widow of a paving-company worker killed during construction work on I-465; a $2.9 million settlement last year on a steel worker’s construction-site accident, and a $925,000 verdict in August 2005 in a Hamilton County site accident where a masonry wall fell on an iron worker and caused brain injury.

“You can have some interesting legal issues come up, like a general contractor’s assumption of duty and employer liability being limited to workers’ comp,” he said. “A lot of this goes to pre-planning and job site or performance analysis. It’s not a matter of just putting hard hats on; it’s looking at a construction project and knowing the dangers and how the work can be done safely. When that’s done, accidents can be avoided.”•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.