Who is Liable for My Scaffolding Injury?
October 16, 2020
Scaffolds are commonly used at most construction sites where workers need safe access to elevated surfaces. When a scaffold is properly built and employers follow the appropriate safety protocols, they provide a safe work platform and a place to temporarily store tools and materials necessary for immediate tasks. However, if the scaffold is defective, improperly installed, or the scaffold equipment is unsafe, workers are at an increased risk for serious injuries, including falls from heights and being hit by falling objects. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most common construction accidents involve scaffolds. In fact, in 2017, scaffolding that did not meet general requirements was the third most frequently cited OSHA standard violation.
How Common are Scaffolding Accidents?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following statistics about scaffolding accidents:
- Each year, scaffolding accidents are responsible for approximately 4,500 injuries and 60 fatalities.
- Twenty-five percent of fatal falls from work surfaces involve falls from scaffolding.
- Over 70 percent of scaffolding accidents are caused by either defective equipment, slippery surfaces, or falling objects.
- The remaining 30 percent of scaffolding accidents are caused by electrocution accidents, environmental conditions, insufficient fall protection, and overloading the scaffolding.
What are Scaffold Safety Standards?
OSHA developed a set of standards that employers and workers should closely follow. The safety standards provide detailed information on how to properly construct, maintain, and use scaffolds. If any of these standards are violated, it can be used as evidence in a Workers’ Compensation or personal injury case. The following are examples of OSHA scaffolding regulations that are commonly violated:
- Scaffolds must support at least four times the anticipated necessary weight.
- Workers should never use barrels or other loose objects to support a scaffold.
- Scaffold planks should extend over the end support by six to 18 inches.
- All planking should overlap by a minimum of 12 inches.
- Shore scaffolds and lean-to scaffolds are prohibited.
- When work is being done overhead, workers must be provided with hard hats and other overhead protection.
- Workers should not let tools, materials, or debris accumulate on a scaffold.
Common Injuries Caused by Scaffolding Accidents
Construction workers whose job is to build, repair, or renovate a structure from scaffolding that is several stories high are at risk for serious injuries. These injuries can require extensive medical treatment, surgery, physical therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. If the injury is particularly severe, the worker may require long-term care. The following are examples of common scaffolding injuries:
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Cuts and lacerations
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Common Causes of Scaffolding Injuries
Scaffolding is a temporary structure that is used for construction projects. However, a temporary scaffold should not be any less safe and secure. OSHA’s scaffolding safety standards provide guidelines that all construction sites are required to follow. However, when companies and employers do not follow these requirements, accidents can happen. The following are common causes of scaffolding accidents:
- The scaffolding was constructed using old or defective materials. When a scaffolding’s structure is unsafe, there is an increased risk of falls, structure collapses, and falling debris.
- Improper training. If workers do not receive proper training or the necessary safety gear, it puts them at risk of serious injuries. Employers also have a responsibility to ensure that the scaffolding is properly maintained.
- The platforms of the scaffolding were overloaded. When too much weight is placed in an area of the scaffolding, it can cause the planks to break or become less stable.
- There were collisions with the scaffolding. This can cause workers to fall from the scaffolding, or debris from above can become loose and strike workers.
- Dangerous environments. Rain, sleet, and ice can cause the surfaces of scaffolding to become wet and slippery, which can increase the risk of falls. If toxic gases are present in the work environment, it can also cause harm to employees.
- The employers or workers did not comply with OSHA scaffolding requirements. When employers do not properly train workers, use low-quality materials, or fail to provide the necessary fall protection, it puts workers at an increased risk for serious injuries.
How can Scaffolding Accidents Be Prevented?
Safety should always be a top priority when employees are working on scaffolding. The BLS found that close to 75 percent of scaffolding accidents were caused by the planking giving away, slip and fall accidents, or falling objects, all of which are preventable if the appropriate safety precautions are followed. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the following safety measures should be taken to prevent fatal falls and other serious injuries:
- Comply with all OSHA scaffolding regulations.
- Ensure that all construction workers are properly trained on how to erect scaffolding.
- Confirm that scaffolding design and construction meet OSHA’s safety requirements.
- Always wear personal fall protection equipment.
- Repair or replace old, worn out, or broken scaffolding materials.
- Make sure that the scaffolding suspension ropes, body belts, and harness system drop lines are kept away from hot or corrosive substances.
- Inspect all components of the scaffolding before each use.
- Only use portions of the building that are structurally sound to anchor drop lines for body belt or harness systems, as well as tiebacks for suspension scaffold support devices.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for assembly, rigging, and use of scaffolds.
What Steps Should I Take If I am Injured in a Scaffolding Accident?
Depending on the nature of the accident, and if a third party was at all responsible for the injury, the injured worker may pursue the following two options:
- Workers’ Compensation claim: Injured workers are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits through their employer’s insurance. This generally covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with the injury. Because Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault insurance program, the injured worker will be eligible to receive benefits regardless of who caused the accident. However, the worker may not file a lawsuit against the employer.
- Personal injury claim: If a third party is responsible for a worker’s injury, they may pursue a personal injury claim. For example, if the scaffolding was defective in some way and the defect caused the worker to fall, the manufacturer may be held liable for injuries.
New Jersey Construction Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Victims of Scaffolding Accidents
If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a scaffolding accident, do not hesitate to contact the New Jersey construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We will thoroughly review your case and determine who is liable for your injuries. We understand how serious scaffolding-related injuries can be. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.