How Common are Slip and Fall Accidents in the Construction Industry?
November 10, 2020
Slip and fall accidents can happen in any workplace environment, from a corporate office or a school to a busy manufacturing plant or warehouse. However, the risk of a serious slip and fall accident in the workplace is highest among construction workers. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 320 construction workers were fatally injured in slip and fall accidents in 2018. Many, if not all, of these tragic accidents could have been prevented if employers provided the appropriate training and ensured that all employees were using the necessary fall prevention equipment. Construction workers who suffer serious injuries from slip and fall accidents may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
There are a wide range of hazards that are present at a busy construction site, including being hit by a falling object, electrocutions, and exposure to hazardous material. However, slip and fall accidents are among the most common workplace hazards at construction sites. In fact, OSHA reports that close to one-third of all reported workplace injuries and 40 percent of fatalities in the construction industry were the result of slip and fall accidents. Injuries related to slip and fall accidents resulted in 50 percent more missed days of work compared to other types of injuries.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Construction workers are exposed to a wide range of slip and fall hazards in the workplace, whether they are working on the ground floor or on scaffolding that is several stories high. The following are common slip and fall risk factors at construction sites:
- Uneven surfaces, including worn or uneven carpeting or loose floorboards
- Wet or slippery surfaces caused by spills or recently waxed or polished floors
- Debris or trash on the floor
- Stray cords or electrical wiring
- Broken or damaged handrails
- Poor lighting
- Lack of proper safety training and equipment
Types of Slip and Fall Accidents
In the construction industry, there are two types of slip and fall accidents:
- Falls on the same level: Not surprisingly, these tend to cause less severe injuries, including minor cuts, bruises, strains, and musculoskeletal injuries.
- Falls to a lower level: These can cause severe, even fatal injuries, particularly if the worker falls from a surface that is high off the ground.
Steps Employers Should Take to Prevent Slip and Fall Accidents
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all workers, which includes construction sites. Although accidents do happen, there are proactive steps that employers should take to protect employees and reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents, including the following:
- General housekeeping: OSHA requires all passageways to be clear and free of any obstructions. Repairs must be made to broken or missing floorboards. Passageways must be large enough to allow for safe clearance. Employers should ensure that construction workers have enough time to keep their work area clean.
- Maintain indoor/outdoor surfaces: To prevent slip and fall accidents, employers should treat outdoor surfaces with sand, salt, and anti-skid adhesive based on the type of surface and what is causing it to become slippery. Indoor surfaces should be kept clean, and floor mats should lay flat, have beveled edges, and be made of material that will not slide. Workers should be required to wear boots or shoes with good traction.
- Maintain lifting equipment: There are many different types of equipment used at construction sites, including lifting equipment. Construction workers who use or operate lifting equipment must be properly trained before they can operate a machine. In addition, they must be trained on how to use personal fall arrest systems. Workers should notify a supervisor immediately if they notice any problems with the lifting equipment or the personal fall arrest systems so that the necessary steps can be taken to have them immediately repaired.
- Floor loading protection: There is a limit to the weight that a surface can hold. A load rating is the maximum weight, and the approved load limit must be posted. The load limit includes the total weight of all the people, tools, machines, and objects on the surface. Exceeding the load rating is not only unsafe; it is illegal. Before a worker brings a heavy object onto a surface, he or she must confirm that the surface can handle the load.
- Cover holes and openings: According to OSHA, a hole is a gap or space more than two inches wide in a horizontal working surface. An opening is a gap at least 30 inches high and 18 inches wide in a vertical surface that a person could fall through if it is not properly covered. All holes and openings must have covers or railings to prevent tripping or falling, and a toe board if tools can fall into an opening or people can pass under it.
- Protect stairs and ladders: Falls from stairs can be prevented by using handrails, ensuring that stairwells are well lit, repairing individual stairs that are damaged, keeping stairways clear of debris, and wiping away any wet spots. To prevent falls from ladders, employees should inspect them prior to use and repair damaged or defective areas, avoid exceeding the load rating, keep metal ladders away from electrical equipment, and avoid using a horizontal ladder as a work platform.
- Scaffold safety: Falls from scaffolding can be particularly devastating, so employers and construction workers must make safety a top priority. Scaffolding that is higher than 10 feet must have guardrails, midrails, and toe boards. The scaffold must support four times the maximum intended load. Scaffolding that is damaged or weakened should not be used.
- Use caution around open-sided floors: If an open-sided floor is six feet above a surface, it must have railings on open sides, except on entrances to ramps and stairways. In addition, there must be a toe board if people pass under it, or if there is moving machinery below or a danger of falling objects.
- Loading dock safety: According to OSHA, dock boards, which are movable ramps, must be secured. Vehicles must be secured from moving with wheel chocks or brakes that must meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements. Workers should avoid uneven ground and keep the dock free of moisture and debris. Vehicles should be properly secured at all times.
- Excavation safety: If an excavation site is six feet or more in depth, a fence, barricade, or guardrail system must be installed.
- Dangerous equipment: To protect workers from accidents with dangerous equipment, guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or toe boards must be used based on the equipment being used.
Common Slip and Fall-Related Injuries
Injuries from slip and fall accidents can be quite severe, particularly if the worker fell from scaffolding or some other surface that is high off the ground. The following are examples of injuries that construction workers may suffer after a slip and fall accident:
- Burns or abrasions
- Permanent disabilities
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
What Benefits can Workers Receive for Their Injuries?
If a construction worker is injured in a slip and fall accident, Workers’ Compensation benefits are available to ease the financial burden associated with the injury. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the injury, the employee will likely be eligible for the following benefits:
- Medical expenses, including hospitalization costs, surgeries, doctor appointments, and prescription medications
- Future medical expenses if additional medical care is needed later
- Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitation costs
- Counseling expenses if the worker suffers from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with the injury
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages if the injured worker will not be able to return to the same job
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of life
In some cases, a third party may also be liable for the worker’s injuries. For example, if a contractor, sub-contractor, vendor, customer, or property owner, caused the accident, the worker may be able to file a third-party lawsuit. An experienced construction accident lawyer can review the details of the case and recommend the best legal course of action.
New Jersey Construction Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Victims of Slip and Fall Accidents
If you suffered a serious injury from a slip and fall accident while working on a construction site, do not hesitate to contact the New Jersey construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. Our experienced legal team understands how devastating these injuries can be, particularly if you fell from an elevated surface, and will assist you with the claims process. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.