The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries in all the United States, with many injuries and fatalities occurring. Likewise, there are many different types of injuries that can occur in this industry. Falls, however, are by far the leading cause of death in construction with an astounding 828 total fatalities in just 2013 alone. The sad fact is this: Fall accidents in construction are totally preventable.
Falls From Scaffolding and Liability
Falls that take place from scaffolds are some of the most common. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays a huge and important role in placing regulations for how to safely construct, maintain, and use scaffolds. When scaffolds are not used and maintained properly, an employer may be held liable in the incident that an employee is seriously injured. Here are some of the regulations that come into play:
- A scaffold should support four times the necessary weight.
- It should never be supported by loose objects that can let loose at any time.
- All planking should be overlapped by 12 inches and should never extend over their end supports between 6 and 18 inches.
- When work is being conducted overhead, protection should be used.
- No materials should be allowed to accumulate on a scaffold.
- You should never use a shore or lean-to scaffold on the job.
If you sustain an injury from a scaffold, then you must be able to prove certain elements, like the fact that you were owed a duty of care by a defendant, that they breached the duty, and the breach caused harm to the worker. Did the employer in charge of the construction project owe you a duty to protect you from all harm? In many cases, this comes into play because many employers have a duty to maintain, provide, and move scaffolds. Employers at a construction site will usually have high, sufficient decision-making power, which includes a duty to protect at all costs.
You must also ask yourself this: Was I injured before the scaffolding accident took place or did it mainly cause my injuries? Did pure negligence cause the injury? If this is true, then you will probably be able to receive damages through a lawsuit. You may be able to recover things like medical expenses, lost wages for time missed due to the injury, pain and suffering, and loss of a normal life.
OSHA Fall Prevention Campaign
OSHA provides tools to both employers and their workers for how to stay safe on the job in regards to falls. Here are the three simple steps they provide to help prevent falls and save lives:
Plan: You must always plan to get the job done as safely as possible. This could include making decisions on how the job will be done, what tasks are involved, and what safety equipment is needed. This means that, no matter what, safety equipment should always come into play and be provided, no matter what the cost. Personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are used in many construction projects.
Provide: Are you working six feet or more above a lower level? Then you may be at risk for serious injury or death in the event of a fall. This means that an employer should always provide fall protection and the right equipment needed for the job like ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear. Make sure all safety gear fits and is secure.
Train: Do you understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment? An employer should always make sure of this before you head out to the job. You should be trained in hazard recognition, safe use of ladders, and other equipment safety needs.
Common Types of Construction-Related Falls and Remedies
Unprotected Sides, Wall Openings, Floor Holes: No matter what construction zone you find yourself in, you will almost always find unprotected sides and edges, wall openings, or floor holes. This ups your chance of sustaining an injury from a fall or getting hit with falling objects. To avoid these hazards, you should always have guardrail systems, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems. Floor holes should always be covered, the site should be surveyed, and protection should be equipped to all employees.
Improper Scaffolds: Heavy equipment and building materials that can cause injury are prevalent in construction zones. If a fall occurs, you could sustain sprains or even fatality. To prevent these falls, all scaffolds should be constructed to the manufacturer’s instructions and guardrail systems should be installed along all open sides and ends of platforms.
Unguarded Steel Rebars: Unguarded protruding steel reinforcing bars can be especially dangerous in construction zones. You should guard all ends with wooden troughs or bend the rebar so that exposed ends are not upright.
Portable Ladder Misuse: You may find that portable ladders pose a risk if they are not safely positioned. You may lose your balance and face a serious injury. To avoid hazards, you will want to position your ladders so that the side rails extend 3 feet above the lading and make sure that the weight on the ladder will not cause it to slip off its support.
OSHA standards are put in place to be abided by. This means that, if these regulations were not followed, in many cases it could potentially lead to a lawsuit. Any violation would be considered a breach of the duty of care. If a product is defective, is unreasonably dangerous, or does not perform up to reasonable standards, a manufacturer could be held liable or your employer could because they ignored the problem. All equipment should comply with OSHA design standards.
At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, we have experience when it comes to your construction accident and how we will help you. When the Tropicana garage collapse occurred, we worked as a team to settle the case for $101 million, which is noted as the largest construction accident settlement ever. If you have a construction claim due to unsafe working conditions or violations, we will work with you to help you get the compensation you deserve as well as help you back up on your feet. We have the tools to investigate your case and determine what you should expect. Contact us today at (201) 585-9111 for a free consultation.