Working in Illinois as a bricklayer (mason worker) can be a dangerous occupation, even in safe work environments. Back injuries, hearing loss, exposure to hexavalent chromium, developing silicosis, slip and falls, toxic burns and respiratory problems are just some of the side effects of working with cement-based materials, like mortar.
Bricklayers, brick masons, and block masons lay various heavy building materials including cinder block, concrete block, structural tile, bricks, terra-cotta blocks, glass blocks and others. These workers bind the material using cement-based mortar laced with various dangerous chemicals to build or repair brick/block walls, roads, partitions, sewer systems, fireplaces, soaking pits, cupolas, furnace stacks, chimneys, archways, and other residential and commercial structures.
If you or a family member was injured while working as a bricklayer, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
According to data maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, working as a bricklayer poses significant health risks due to numerous factors. Common hazards and potentially harmful effects of working as a mason, bricklayer or block layer include:
- Working at Great Heights – Falling from nearly any height over five or six feet has the potential for death or severe injury that can occur from a slip and fall or collapsing structure that results in bone fractures, impalement and crushing injuries.
- Exposure to Cement-Based Products – Exposure to wet and dry mortar and other cement-based materials are known to cause dermatitis, respiratory problems from vapor inhalation, allergic reactions, skin burns, blindness, and other serious conditions.
- Working with Hand and Power Tools – Bricklayers use rotating saws, bricks saws, electric mixers, angle grinders, and other electrical equipment that if used improperly could cause facial injuries, eye injuries, lacerations, and amputation. In severe cases, the vibration of the equipment can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
- Working on Unlevel Ground – Working on unsecured or unlevel scaffolding, ladders, and other structures could lead to dangerous falls from heights that might result in cuts, bruises, broken bones, lacerations, crushing injuries, impalement, and other serious wounds.
- Exposure to Excessive Noise – Laying, repairing or replacing brick and blocks around excessively loud machinery for an extended time could cause significant hearing loss.
- Exposure to Overhead Obstructions – Many accidents involving bricklayers and block layers occur from overhead obstructions, electrical wires, cable conduits and other structures that could lead to electrocution, electrical shock, tripping and falling.
- Working in Extreme Weather Conditions – Laying block is not recommended in extremely cold temperatures due to minimal chemical reactions of cement in mortar when it is below 40°. However, bricklayers often work in excessive heat that could cause heat cramps, heat rashes, dehydration, heat stress, heat stroke, and severe sunburns.
- Repetitive Motion and Manual Handling Injuries – Many bricklayers must bend, reach, pull, stretch, lift, turn in awkward positions, and use repetitive motions every working day. These excessive stresses on the body can lead to musculoskeletal disorders involving strains, sprains and ligaments/tendon injuries.
Other injuries occur when struck by machinery, slipping, tripping and falling on untidy construction sites, working around combustible/flammable materials, working in confined spaces, foot and hand injuries, and exposure to asbestos dust.
A Bricklayer’s Job
An average day in a bricklayer’s life likely requires reading and comprehending drawings and blueprints that outline the job to help calculate required materials. As a part of laying brick, the worker will need to cut or break materials to the appropriate size and then mix grout or mortar to spread on the foundation or slab. The job will also require the worker to set the brick, point or caulk the joint, and eventually, clean the brick once the mortar cures.
The bricklayer will use plumb lines, levels and other tools to ensure that each row of bricks or blocks is perfectly aligned, plumb and square. The worker will likely need to understand the property of numerous kinds of dry and wet mortar material, hardening chemicals, and bonding ingredients. Most bricklayers use chisels, hammers, masonry saws and other equipment to cut blocks to the appropriate size for functional design and an aesthetically pleasing look.
Some bricklayers and block layers line and reline furnaces, boilers, kilns and other components using acid-resistant blocks and refractory bricks along with other concrete-based materials. All work must be performed according to building codes and local, state and federal regulations.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data concerning the previous year, there were 1570 bricklayers, brick masons and block masons working in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. On average, mason workers in northeastern Illinois earn $74,680 annually (mean wage), or $35.90 per hour, which is significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
The state of Illinois and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) require employers who hire bricklayers, block layers and masons to provide extensive safety education, training, and equipment. Your employer is legally bound to protect you and ensure that you are informed about the safety and health conditions. Your boss must provide adequate information pertinent to your job along with instruction and supervision to ensure you work in a safe environment.
However, as an employee, you also have legal duties that must be followed. These duties include:
- Take reasonable measures to ensure your safety and health along with the safety of others who might be impacted by your work. The other individuals could include other workers, construction site visitors, and the public.
- Follow the health and safety requirements as described in your training,
- Comply with every control measure and instruction provided by your employer including wearing your PPE (personal protective equipment),
- Never misuse tools, equipment, practices, and training that could jeopardize the welfare, health, and safety of yourself or others.
Every bricklayer and other employees on the job site plays a part in creating and maintaining a safe work environment to ensure that everyone stays healthy, prevents injury and never becomes complacent. Every worker must inspect the equipment they use, report defects, check scaffolding, ladders, and towers to ensure all equipment is safely installed and secured. These steps and others can help avoid severe injury or fatalities. When an accident does occur or exposure to a toxic substance is present, it is essential to report the condition to the supervisor, manager, boss or responsible individual immediately.
Reported Bricklayer Fatalities
According to OSHA, statistics for the year 2015 revealed numerous fatalities occurring on the job involving brick and block layers. On September 21, 2015, a worker was “struck and killed by a hydraulic arm" at the construction site. On June 16, 2015, a worker “was killed after getting caught in a brick setting machine. On March 10, 2015, a “worker died after falling and striking [their] head on a brick wall."
Other cases involving injury and death of bricklayers and other construction site workers include:
- Case 1: A Chicago employee fell from a scaffold and suffered multiple injuries. On February 12, 2017, in the early evening, a 38-year-old worker was standing on an 11.5 foot-high mobile frame scaffold before falling to the ground. The worker sustained multiple injuries and succumbed to his injuries the next day.
- Case 2: A Chicago worker was struck and killed by a falling brick. On February 4, 2017, in the early afternoon, a worker was cleaning up a commercial job site underneath newly installed masonry. A section of masonry blocks fell from the third-floor exterior portion of the building and struck the employee on the head. The worker succumbed to their injuries that included multiple skull fractures.
Safety and Health Training
The state of Illinois and OSHA mandates that every bricklayer receive safety and health training when first beginning the job and periodically throughout the year. The training should include a discussion on:
- Safety measures involving working at heights
- The proper way to use hand and electrical tools,
- Hygiene and health methods to prevent dermatitis and other skin conditions associated with exposure to chemicals and cement-based materials,
- The proper use of scaffolding, ladders and mobile towers (lifts),
- The dangers of cartridge tools and abrasive grinding wheels,
- Safety measures around forklifts and other heavy equipment including working around equipment and lifting loads,
- Familiarization training to become accustomed to using tools safely,
- Refresher training throughout the year to minimize the potential for accidents.
Making sure an employee is trained sufficiently can help avoid serious accidents and exposures that could cause life-threatening illnesses. Effective measures help to create a more productive and motivated workforce.
There are certain steps that the bricklayer should take to minimize any potential harm to their health. These include:
- Hand Hygiene – Typically, the hands come into contact every day at work with harmful or dangerous substances.
- Personal Protective Equipment – Wearing gloves, alkali-resistant clothing, waterproofed boots and other equipment can help prevent the direct contact of wet mortar and chemicals to skin and eyes. Over time, constant contact could cause dermatitis, severe burns, and blindness.
- Respiratory Equipment – Wearing a respirator can minimize exposure to breathing asbestos dust that is proven to be highly dangerous because it causes severe damage to the lungs including cancer. The repairing or reconstructing of old brickwork in buildings constructed before the early 1980s could release asbestos fibers into the air, especially if using grinders and saws.
- Working at Heights – You could be seriously or fatally injured if you fall from a significant height from a scaffold, ladder, or another high area. Weather conditions including strong wind could have a significant effect on stability when working from an elevated area. Scaffolding problems are serious concerns and require special attention because the scaffold structure could collapse and crush you.
- Working on Ladders – Bricklayers requires both hands to perform their job and should never climb or stand on the ladder on an unlevel surface. The ladder must be in good operating condition and be routinely examined to ensure it remains free of defects. Never overreach when working from a high area on a ladder and ensure that the ladder is long enough to work safely in the appropriate position.
- Falling Objects – You can seriously injure your skull, shoulders, body, feet, arms, legs or another body part if an object falls from any height. The construction site should use brick guards that help position the material in place to ensure you remain safe. Additionally, wearing a hard hat, safety helmet and protect the footwear can help minimize the potential for significant injury.
- Slippery Surfaces – A bricklaying work environment is often slippery when wet mortar drips on the scaffolding boards or the dirt at ground level. To minimize the potential of a slip and fall accident, ensure the work area remains clean. Wear approved non-skid safety footwear to avoid injury when stepping on sharp objects and nails. The area should be well lit and clean of pallet debris and brick bands.
- Airborne Dust and Particles – Bricklayers and construction site workers cut bricks to the appropriate size to ensure the brick row length and height match blueprint specifications. Using a grinder or saw can create brick fragments and toxic dust that could harm body parts, especially the eye. The dust emitted from mortar, bricks, blocks and other cement-based materials can release crystalline silica into the air and cause significant problems including respiratory issues. Without proper precautions, the worker can develop lung tissue damage (silicosis) or another serious breathing difficulty.
- Manual Handling – Receiving proper training can minimize the potential of suffering serious back injuries and extensive long-term pain and discomfort. These problems are often the result of carrying or lifting heavy loads routinely while transporting brick, mortar, and other materials up the scaffold to every level. The repetitive motion of working as a bricklayer can cause carpal tunnel syndrome and other issues with the hands, fingers, wrist, arms, shoulders, and back.
- Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome – Many electrical hand tools and equipment generate intense vibration that is transmitted into the worker’s arms and hands. These tools include concrete saws, chipping hammers, hammer drills, sanders, disc cutters, concrete pokers, concrete breakers, needle guns, grinders, and pneumatic tools.
- Electrical Shock and Electrocution – Working with electrical tools is a major concern on a construction site, especially when the area is wet. Electrocution and electrical shock can happen under various conditions including when the cord is cut, stripped or broken.
- Sun Exposure – Working outdoors over a lifetime can be significantly harmful to the bricklayer’s skin. Even minimal reddening on the skin from extensive exposure to the sun can cause considerable damage that will make the skin blister and peel. Continuous protection from the sun is crucial to minimize skin damage and the development of melanoma and other skin cancers. Applying sunscreen and avoiding dehydration by drinking plenty of water is necessary to maintain good health as is wearing a flap or brim hat that protects the back of the neck, the sides the face and the ears.
The general contractor, manager, supervisor, foreman or another individual in control of the construction site is legally obligated to ensure that every employee, worker, and visitor remains safe at all times. Additionally, the individual in charge of the job should provide a health and hygiene facility that includes a restroom, toilet, and an area to wash your hands, arms, and face to wash away toxic chemicals, asbestos/cement dust and other harmful substances like wet concrete/mortar.
Personal Injury Attorney Representing Bricklayers
According to Illinois tort civil law, any bricklayer who is injured on the job or develops health problems due to exposure to conditions at work is afforded the opportunity to file a claim for worker’s compensation. Additionally, the worker may be entitled to additional benefits exceeding Worker’s Comp. by filing a claim or lawsuit against any third-party responsible for their injury/illness.
If your injuries or illness were caused by an accident or incident involving your job, using a lawyer to represent you in your case could be a wise decision. The Chicago Work Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) are successful at assisting our clients with Worker’s Comp. benefits and investigating their case to determine if additional third parties might also be involved. Our law firm works hard to ensure you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your damages.
Contact A Bricklayer Workers Compensation & Injury Law Firm
We do not require that you pay any upfront fees or retainers because our personal injury law firm accepts all job-related injury cases through contingency fee arrangements. This agreement means all payments for your legal fees are postoned until after the lawyers have successfully resolved your case in a jury trial or an out of court settlement negotiated on your behalf. We guarantee that if we do not win, you owe us nothing!