According to a Guardian analysis, roughly 6,500 immigrant workers, most of them from South Asia, have died over the last 10 years as they built facilities for the 2022 World Cup Finals.
Study authors believe that this number, which averages to about one fatality a month, is artificially low. It does not include all foreign workers from all countries, and it also does not include fatalities that occurred after October 2020. Excessive heat was by far the most common cause of these fatalities. The ambitious projects include stadiums, roads, and hotels, as well as a new airport and a new city.
“The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country,” the Qatari government said in a statement.
Overseas Construction Contractors
No American construction fatalities have occurred on World Cup projects, according to the report. However, American private contractor construction injuries are all too common, even in places like Qatar. Most people would not consider this country to be a war zone. But it is, for Defense Base Act purposes. More on that below.
Many overseas contractors work on rebuilding construction projects, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Such projects are crucial. Typically, refugees do not return until basic services like hospitals, schools, and power plants are available. So, until these things are built, militants remain active. Other infrastructure items, like roads, bridges, and parks, are equally as important.
Typically, stateside planners develop the project parameters, set the budget, and set deadlines. These activities are what these professionals do best. Local residents do much of the work. This arrangement provides jobs and boosts the area’s economy. Perhaps more importantly, native workers invest the community in the project’s completion. So, militant attacks and acts of sabotage are less common.
Contractors are usually the site supervisors. This role is perhaps the most critical and dangerous one in the project. Site supervisors usually hire, discipline, and manage workers. Without effective site supervisors, blueprints do not become buildings. These jobs are also risky. The workers usually have ample safety equipment to protect them. Site managers often have little more than a hardhat.
Armed contractors are usually onsite as well. As mentioned, site supervisors take great care to make the community feel part of the project. However, these efforts only go so far. Security at a dam or other project in a place like Iraq requires much more than a perimeter fence. In fact, in many cases, there are almost as many security guards as workers.
Common Construction Injuries
All kinds of injuries are common at construction sites. These jobs are routinely at or near the top of those “most dangerous occupations” lists which appear from time to time. Although many injuries occur, many of them are in one of the following four areas, which the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls the “fatal four”:
- Falls: These injuries, which could be a fall from a height or a slip-and-fall, are by far the most common fatal construction accidents in the United States. A fall from as little as four stories high is usually fatal. As for slip-and-falls, the nearest hospital is usually far away. So, injuries like head injuries and back injuries are almost untreatable by the time doctors intervene.
- Electrocutions: Many times, electrocutions are related to falls. The arc blast usually throws victims several yards away from the source of the electric shock. That reaction almost always ends in a serious fall. Sometimes, the arc blast is not strong enough to throw the victim. That is usually a bad thing. The victim is exposed to temperatures which often exceed several thousand degrees for at least several seconds.
- Caught Between: Once again, there are basically two types of these accidents. Some workers are caught between trucks or other large vehicles and walls or other fixed objects. Many of these drivers have little experience operating such heavy machinery. Others caught between injuries involve lifts and elevators. These devices are convenient. They are also unforgiving, if you get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Struck By: There is an old saying among construction workers that a hammer is like a gun. You should never pull it out unless you really need to use it. A hammer dropped from several stories up in the air could easily be fatal to someone on the ground, even if the victim is wearing a hard hat.
Construction workers also risk occupational disease injuries, mostly due to repetitive stress or toxic exposure. Heat-related deaths are common, as well.
Injury Compensation Available
The Defense Base Act usually not only pays treatment bills. It also pays other reasonably necessary expenses, such as transportation costs, prescription drugs, and medical devices. Furthermore, the Defense Base Act replaces lost wages, so victims and their families can still pay bills.
As mentioned above, the DBA’s eligibility requirements are very broad. A contractor who is injured in an overseas war zone is usually eligible for compensation.
The injury could be a sudden trauma injury or an occupational disease which occurs slowly over time. Full compensation is usually available, even if a pre-existing condition contributed to the victim’s injury. Insurance companies cannot use the victim’s physical vulnerabilities to deny needed compensation.
Furthermore, a “war zone” is any country which has at least one U.S. military installation. That installation could be a large military base or a single person, like a military advisor in an embassy.
On a related note, Defense Department contractors are not the only people eligible for compensation. The DBA applies to all American contractors as well as those who work for some sympathetic foreign governments.
For more information about DBA procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.