Every year in this country, dozens of construction workers are killed in scaffolding accidents and hundreds are injured, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, falls from scaffolds account for nearly a quarter of all fatal falls in work settings, with suspension scaffolds involved in 3 out of 10 incidents.
Our Birmingham injury lawyers understand that nearly three-quarters of all injury-causing scaffold accidents are attributed to one of three things: The employee slipped, the support or planking gave way or the worker or scaffolding was struck by a falling object.
The fact is, every one of these scenarios is 100 percent avoidable if a construction company is abiding by standards set forth by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
And yet, they continue to happen.
Just recently, the National Safety Council released a case study in which a company president had been forwarded a photograph of a work site from a client who had concerns about certain aesthetic aspects of the project. What the client didn't realize - but the president recognized immediately - was that the photograph revealed numerous safety violations happening on the site. All of them had to do with the potential for worker falls, but one of the most concerning was with regard to an employee seen on scaffolding.
The worker was putting up a concrete pillar. The scaffold is nearly 20 feet high, which exceeded the regulatory 4:1 height-to base-ratio. Further, the employee isn't in any way restrained. As if this weren't enough, there is no access ladder or midrails. What the president immediately recognized was that this particular scaffold had neither been erected nor inspected by a person who was competent to do so.
Without enough guard railing, this worker could have easily fallen from the scaffold. And failure to abide by certain safety standards meant the structure was at an increased risk of toppling.
OSHA General Requirements 1926.451(c)(1) specifically outlines the requirements for scaffold height to base ratios. It requires that any scaffold with a higher height-to-base ratio has to be prevented from tipping by bracing, tying or guying the locations where horizontal members support both the inner and outer legs.
There are other stipulations as well, but none were followed in this case. The president forwarded the photograph to his safety director. As it turned out, the on-site supervisor did not have the proper training necessary to best ensure job site safety.
This is not a unique situation, and it's a major reason we continue to see such scaffolding accidents on construction job sites across Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to fall accidents, top causes of construction accidents include workers who are struck by objects or equipment and transportation accidents. While an injured employer will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits in the wake of a work accident, in many cases a third-party liability lawsuit should also be pursued against a subcontractor, vendor, manufacturer, property owner or other at-fault party.
Lack of Fall Protection Measures Place Workers at Increased Risk, October 2012, National Safety Council