Scaffolds are common settings for serious and deadly accidents in the construction industry. Although scaffolding is necessary at many construction sites, it can prove highly dangerous for workers and bystanders. In 2017, falls were the leading cause of construction worker fatal injuries, according to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The third most frequently cited OSHA standard violated in 2017 was scaffolding that failed to meet general requirements. Learning the most common causes of scaffolding accidents could help you prevent these tragedies.
What Are the Main Causes of Deaths and Injuries on Scaffolds?
Scaffolds are necessary to allow construction workers to reach upper levels of buildings, store tools and materials, and have a stable working surface. It is up to the construction team to construct reasonably safe and stable scaffolds. The employer must train workers in putting together scaffolding and scaffolds according to OSHA’s regulations and industry best practices. Human error is the leading cause of scaffold-related deaths and injuries.
- Poor scaffold or scaffolding construction. Unsafe scaffolds in their structure could lead to collapses, falls, falling materials and many other disasters. Workers have an obligation to obey all related OSHA laws and industry regulations during the construction of scaffolds. Failure to do so could lead to tragedy.
- Careless or negligent workers. Overloaded scaffolds, unsafe scaffolding construction, failures at attachment points and other mistakes by employees contribute to many preventable scaffold accidents. All workers must do their parts to maintain reasonably safe scaffolding.
- Falling objects, tools and debris. Improper securement of objects on a scaffold causes many injuries and deaths. Objects falling and striking workers was the second leading cause of death in construction in 2017, responsible for 112 worker fatalities. All workers should obey OSHA’s object securement regulations at all times.
- Employer negligence. An employer could be guilty of a lapse that puts workers at risk, such as a lack of training, low-quality materials, no workplace rules and inadequate fall protection. It is generally the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace for construction workers.
- Dangerous environments. Environmental conditions can contribute to scaffolding accidents. Rain and sleet, for example, could lead to slippery surfaces and fall accidents from scaffolds. Toxic gases in the work environment could also harm employees while working from scaffolds.
Identifying the cause of a scaffold accident, injury or death could point to someone else’s liability for damages. If an individual or company negligently contributed to the accident, that party could be financially responsible for a victim’s losses. Defendants in scaffold accident claims can include construction companies, employers, product manufacturers, contractors and property owners.
How Can a Scaffolding Accident Be Prevented?
In one Bureau of Labor Statistics study, almost three-fourths (72%) of employees injured in scaffold accidents stated their injuries occurred due to planking giving away, slip and fall accidents, or falling objects. These are all preventable hazards with due care and attention to detail in the workplace. If every construction site supervisor and worker obeyed safety regulations and worked with caution, far fewer scaffolding accidents would occur. Reducing human error would save lives in the construction industry.
- Properly training construction workers in how to erect scaffolding
- Providing all appropriate safety gear and fall protection
- Following OSHA’s scaffolding construction standards
- Taking enough time to properly construct a scaffold
- Obeying all laws related to tool/material securement
- Inspecting scaffolding/scaffolds regularly for defects
- Replacing old, worn-out or broken scaffolding materials
Safety regulations are in place for a reason. An employer should never encourage workers to cut corners or skip steps during scaffolding construction to save time or money. Workers should obey all scaffold-related rules in their construction and usage. Doing the responsible thing by obeying OSHA standards and workplace safety protocols could prevent scaffolding disasters. If a scaffold accident does cause injuries or deaths, victims or loved ones may bring civil claims against one or more parties for negligently causing or failing to prevent the catastrophe. A construction accident lawyer can help plaintiffs with these claims in Texas.