What Causes Scaffolding Collapses During Construction?

Scaffolding is a fixture of construction sites. Properly constructed and secured scaffolding can take workers multiple stories above the ground, enabling them to perform jobs at elevation without fear of injury.

Unfortunately, a wide range of issues can make construction scaffolding unsafe for workers. Some of the most serious accidents involving scaffolding involve the collapse of the structure.

If you were injured in a scaffold collapse or lost a loved one in an accident on a construction site, it is important to understand the full extent of your legal options. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi has the experience and resources to handle complex construction accident claims.

What Causes Scaffolding to Collapse on Construction Sites?

The majority of scaffold collapses are attributable to human error. Unfortunately, construction workers are often unaware of the risks when they climb the scaffold during the course of the workday.

Comprehensive investigation of the scaffold accident can reveal what caused the structure to fall over or collapse. This in turn can help you understand your rights and potential legal remedies.

Some of the most common factors that make construction scaffolding vulnerable to collapse include:

Poor Construction of Scaffolding

Scaffolding is often erected quickly and with limited thought or planning in the course of a project. Treating the assembly of scaffolding as a “rush job” can lead to a number of dangers, including:

  • Inadequate foundation
  • Loose and unstable planks
  • Scaffolding that is not level
  • Missing or unsecured guardrails
  • A shaky or unstable frame

These issues significantly increase the risk of falls for construction workers on the scaffold. However, errors and negligence during assembly can also cause the scaffolding to collapse.

Improperly Secured Scaffolding

Once the scaffold is constructed, it must be secured with ties, braces, and guy wires. A scaffold that is not secured – whether it is because the tubes or posts are not fastened together or the structure is not anchored properly – can easily tip over or collapse.

Foremen, supervisors, and others in authority on a construction site need to ensure that scaffolding is built and secured according to the manufacturer’s specifications. OSHA has also implemented rules for the assembly and securing of scaffolding.

Use of Defective, Degraded, and Substandard Materials

It is not uncommon for scaffolding to be built using old, damaged, and/or poor-quality materials. This is generally done in an effort to save money and time. Unfortunately, the cost of using inferior materials can be catastrophic if they fail and cause the scaffolding to collapse.

Another potential cause of scaffolding collapse is a defect in one or more of the materials. Examination of the collapsed scaffolding may reveal that the components did not meet industry standards.

Inadequate Inspection of the Scaffold

OSHA requires that a qualified worker with knowledge of scaffolding inspect the scaffold “before each work shift and after any occurrence which could affect the structural integrity of the scaffold.” In effect, this means that scaffolding on the construction site should be inspected at least daily.

When scaffolding goes uninspected, serious problems can go undetected. An unsafe scaffold can lead to workers falling from heights, as well as putting those at elevation and on the ground at risk in the event of a collapse.

Insufficient Scaffold Maintenance

Lack of inspection goes hand-in-hand with inadequate maintenance. Materials degrade over time and planks, braces, and other components may need to be replaced. In some cases, new scaffolding may need to be built if the structure becomes unsafe.

Unfortunately, managers and supervisors often overlook the importance of scaffold maintenance. Ongoing use of a failing scaffold can lead to collapse and other serious accidents.

Overloading the Scaffold

According to OSHA rules, “each component of a scaffold system must be able to support its own weight … and at least 4 times the maximum intended load transmitted to that component.” This is a significant amount of weight, but workers, tools, and materials all add up.

Improper management of the construction site can quickly cause scaffolding to become overloaded. Exceeding the weight limit is a major cause of scaffold accidents.

Collisions with Scaffolding

External forces can also cause scaffolding to collapse. The scaffold could collapse if it is struck by a vehicle or heavy equipment.

What Are My Legal Options After a Scaffolding Collapse?

You likely have multiple claims if you are hurt on the job or you lose a loved one in a scaffolding accident. First and foremost, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp covers your medical expenses and a portion of your lost income if you are hurt, while families of deceased workers are entitled to a death benefit.

It is also important to consider third party liability. New Jersey law allows workers to sue if negligence on the part of one or more of these parties led to the scaffold accident:

  • A contractor or subcontractor responsible for designing, building, inspecting, and maintaining the scaffold
  • The owner of the property under construction
  • The manufacturer of defective scaffolding and/or its components

Meanwhile, the New York labor law contains special provisions to protect workers who use scaffolding and other equipment that take them off the ground. The scaffold law requires owners, contractors, subcontractors, and their agents to provide workers with proper scaffolding. In the event of a scaffold accident, you can bring a claim against the responsible party or parties regardless of whether negligence was a factor – a legal doctrine known as strict liability.

Damages in the wake of a scaffolding collapse are usually immense. Therefore, it is crucial to explore all of your options for bringing a claim, from workers’ compensation to a third party injury or wrongful death action.

Know Your Rights After a Scaffold Collapse

Scaffolding collapses are among the most serious types of construction accidents. Multiple workers can be seriously injured or killed, as well as bystanders in the immediate vicinity.

If you were working on a scaffold when it fell or your loved one died in the collapse, you need experienced legal representation promptly. When you contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, our team gets to work on your case right away to gather evidence, determine what caused the collapse, identify who is at fault, and calculate the damages you may be due.

Please call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 today for a FREE case review. Our scaffold accident lawyers serve clients throughout New Jersey and New York.