According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), around 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the painting and construction industry, work with ladders and on scaffolding.
It comes as little surprise that due to employer negligence, improper safety standards and faulty equipment, that scaffolding accidents cause about 4,500 worker injuries and over 60 deaths every year.
In a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, 72 percent of workers injured in scaffolding accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support breaking or giving way, to an employee slipping, or a worker being struck by a falling object. Almost every kind of scaffolding accident can be prevented by proper worker training and responsible construction site management.
Falls are a leading cause of traumatic occupational death. Scaffolding accidents can cause a variety of injuries, including orthopedic trauma, bone fractures, head injuries, and neck and back injuries.
When employers fail to protect employees and fail to provide a safe workplace, victims can file hire workplace injury lawyers, file personal injury lawsuits and recover costs for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Catastrophic Injury lawyer who has had success representing victims of construction site and scaffolding accidents.
The Lyon Firm works with OSHA experts, construction site engineers, and vocational experts to investigate and determine whether poor management, safety violations, worker negligence or defective equipment caused an injury.
Causes of Scaffolding Failure
- Improper securement of scaffolding
- Missing or inadequate guardrails
- Old or defective planks
- Unsafe or missing harnesses
- Inadequate worker training
- Scaffold collapses
- Falling debris
- Improper operating procedures
- Working in unsafe weather conditions
- Overloading of scaffolding
- OSHA Fall Safety Violation
Examples of Past Scaffolding Accidents
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a report describing five different fatal scaffolding accidents. None of the following deaths described would have occurred if the existing OSHA regulations for the safe use of scaffolds had been observed.
- A painting foreman and a 28-year-old male painter died when the scaffold from which they were working collapsed, causing them to fall nearly 48 feet to the ground. The scaffold manufacturer specified 600 pounds of counterweight for this scaffold and load, but the painters used only 200 pounds of counterweight. The painters were not harnessed or secured, and used no fall protection.
- A 27-year-old male cement finisher died when he fell from a scaffold and his safety harness snapped. Examination of the safety harness showed burn damage from cutting and welding operations. The employer failed to inspect fall protection equipment.
- A 33-year-old male caulking mechanic died when a scaffold on which he was working failed and he wore no fall protection. He fell six stories to his death.
- A 37-year-old male painter died when the platform he was working from fell 65 feet inside a water storage tank. Investigation revealed that two U-bolts on the loop of cable supporting the block and tackle had loosened enough to allow cable ends to slip through, causing the scaffold to fall.
- A 39-year-old painter died after falling 40 feet when a scaffold suspension rope broke. An investigation revealed that a nylon hoist rope had broken at a point where it had been burned some time before the incident.
Kinds of Equipment Involved In Scaffolding Accidents
- Bricklayer’s scaffold
- Bracket scaffold
- Frame scaffold
- Ladder jack scaffold
- Mobile scaffold
- Needle beam scaffold
- Outrigger scaffold
- Suspension scaffold
- Swinging scaffold
- Tube scaffold
Preventing Scaffolding Failure
Federal safety regulations impose strict requirements for scaffold design and setup, and employers and contractors must follow the specifications or they may be held liable for any resulting injury. Basic scaffolding guidelines in Ohio and around the country include:
- Each level of scaffolding must have a safe area of access.
- Steps and landings must have nonslip treads.
- Scaffolds must support their own weight plus four-times the maximum intended load.
- Level, stable footing is mandatory for each scaffold.
- Scaffolds attached to building facades must be properly secured.
- Scaffolds must have appropriate guardrails.
- Scaffold accessories like ladders or braces must be maintained and in good working condition
- Rope used on scaffolding must be protected from heat-producing sources and regularly inspected
- Canopies or safety netting may be required to protect workers from falls and from falling debris.
- Scaffolds must be at least 10 feet from electrical power lines.
- Scaffolds and riggings must be inspected before every shift.
- Large-scale scaffolds require inspection by a certified engineer to ensure that they are structurally sound.
Scaffolding Failure Lawsuits
Employers must comply with OSHA regulations, inspect all scaffolds before each shift, and provide personal fall protection equipment. Employers should provide workers with proper training for scaffold systems and for using personal fall protection equipment. Untrained personnel should not be permitted to work from any type of suspension scaffold.
Improper assembly and improper training account for the vast majority of scaffolding accidents. Following a serious scaffolding failure incident, the injured parties are encouraged to prepare for legal action by considering the following:
- Gather information about the accident. That may include photos of the scene, witness testimony, medical reports, daily employee records, and OSHA regulation adherence.
- Preserve the scaffolding for industry experts and attorney to investigate. This will act as evidence in your potential case. Contact the contractor or subcontractor and remind them of the legal issues at hand.
- You may collect Workers’ compensation, however, this may not cover all your costs, and filing a lawsuit may be in your best interest.