The Many Dangers of Falling Debris at Construction Sites
October 14, 2021
Falling debris at construction sites is a major hazard that endangers not only workers, but also unsuspecting passersby. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), getting struck by a falling object is one of the leading causes of death for workers employed in the construction industry. In 2019, 170 workers were killed on jobsites after being struck by equipment, objects, or transportation vehicles. The truth is that struck by injuries and fatalities are entirely preventable, but not without employing certain control methods that limit known risks.
Falling Objects: Hazards
The extent of a person’s injury after being hit by falling debris depends on the size and weight of the object as well as how far it fell. Even a fairly small object, like a pocket tape measure for example, can inflict deadly injuries on a victim if it falls from a great enough distance. When construction workers face the various dangers that are associated with falling objects, so does everyone else that is in the vicinity of the work site. OSHA reports the following as some of the top-contributing factors behind struck by incidents that happen on and around construction sites each year:
- Performing overhead work, or working with the hands above shoulder height. There are many jobs on construction sites that require overhead labor, such as driving fasteners, finishing drywall, and drilling
- Working underneath cranes, scaffolds, and hoists (or lifts)
- Working with power-actuated tools. Power-actuated tools use a small, controlled explosion to drive studs, nails, or other specialized fasteners into a solid base
- Working with handheld tools such as screwdrivers and hammers
- Working with power tools like grinders, saws, and drills
- Working with industrial machines like pavement saws or jackhammers
- Pushing or pulling objects that can become airborne
- Working with compressed air
Safety Tips to Reduce Injury Risks
Lots of objects on construction sites can slide, roll over, fly, slip, and swing. This is why it is so important that employers and workers take the necessary steps to ensure that all equipment and tools are properly secured and thus not creating unnecessary struck by risks. OSHA’s tips for preventing these hazards are in fact twofold: they protect both workers and passersby from avoidable injuries that could end up being fatal. Here are just a few examples of the agency’s tips to reduce injury risks:
- Inspect tools, hoists, and cranes to ensure that all are in good and safe working condition
- Use screens, debris nets, guardrails, and toeboards on scaffolds to prevent objects and tools from falling to a lower level from overhead work areas
- Do not store materials within 6 feet of floor openings or hoist ways nor within 10 feet of an exterior wall that does not extend above material
- Provide proper training to workers on the safe operation of power tools (and all other tools) before use
- Provide protective gear, or personal protective equipment (PPE). Some of the most useful forms of PPE to prevent injuries associated with being hit by falling or flying objects are hard hats, goggles, safety glasses, and face shields
- Guard rotating and moving parts on power tools and industrial machinery; guards must be in place at any time tools are in use
- Do not use tools with splintered, loose, or cracked handles. Similarly, do not use impact tools with mushroomed heads, because the head can fly off and strike people
- Secure tools and other items to prevent them falling onto people below. Keep areas clear of clutter, and stack and secure materials (even from wind gusts) to prevent them from sliding
- Reduce compressed air that you use to clean to 30 psi, and only use it with proper guards and other protective equipment. Never clean your clothing with compressed air
As you can see, there are many factors that contribute to preventable struck by and falling debris/object injuries – and there are also plenty of ways employers and workers alike can mitigate known risks. Although almost every single one of these incidents is avoidable simply by upholding safe and ethical business practices, there are far too many corner-cutting bosses who fail to value and prioritize not only the safety of their workers, but the safety of everyone else in the vicinity, too. Some of the most common injuries that victims sustain from being struck by falling debris at construction sites include:
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Permanent disability
Injured by a Falling Object or Falling Debris?
At Galfand Berger, our attorneys tirelessly fight on behalf of injured individuals. Over the past seventy years, we have represented thousands of innocent workers and bystanders who were injured in preventable construction site accidents. In some cases, we litigate workers’ compensation or personal injury claims for our injured clients, and in others, third party liability claims. Determining whether an employer failed to maintain appropriate safety and health programs or if a third-party manufacturer or other party was liable for a person’s injuries requires specialized legal knowledge.
The circumstances that surround an individual’s injury are critical to examine from every angle when a lawyer is determining how to best proceed. Our attorneys have successfully handled numerous claims, including:
- Our client, a crane operator, suffered an extensive brain injury from blood loss after being struck by a forklift. Our attorneys argued that the dealer outfitted the truck without necessary flashing lights to alert bystanders of the risks. We recovered $4.7 million for our client.
If you sustained injuries and would like to learn more about filing a claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.