What Makes Scaffolding Dangerous for Construction Workers?

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Scaffolding is used at almost every construction site where the structure that is being erected is more than one story high. In addition to providing construction workers with access to high levels, scaffolding also enables workers to access difficult-to-reach locations and provides a stable work platform where construction workers can store tools and other materials. However, if the scaffolding is not properly supported or the workers do not take the appropriate safety precautions when working on or near scaffolding, it can result in serious or fatal injuries, particularly if a worker falls from a surface that is several stories above the ground. A skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer will ensure that the injured worker receives that maximum financial compensation he or she deserves.

What is a Scaffold?

A scaffold is a temporary, elevated work platform that is used to support construction workers, materials, or both. Depending on the type of job and whether it involves repairs, improvements, demolition, or a new construction, a different type of scaffolding may be used for each task. There are two main types of a scaffolding:

  • Supported scaffolding: This is the most common type of scaffolding used in the construction industry. It consists of one or more platforms that are supported by beams, poles, posts, or other types of rigid support systems. Examples include frame scaffolds, ladder jacks, mast climbers, pump jacks, and tube and coupler scaffolding.
  • Suspended scaffolding: These are platforms that are supported by ropes, hangers, or stirrups from an overhead structure. Examples include catenary, interior hung, multi-level, needle beam, and multi-point adjustable scaffolding.

The following are examples of other types of scaffolding that may be used at construction sites:

  • Single scaffolding: This is often referred to as bricklayers scaffolding, as it is often used for brick masonry.
  • Catenary scaffold: This consists of a platform that is supported by two horizontal and parallel ropes that are attached to structural members of a building or structure.
  • Multi-level scaffold: This is a two-point or multi-point adjustable suspension scaffold that has a series of platforms at different levels that rest on common stirrups.
  • Scissor lifts: These are mobile supported work platforms that are used to safely move workers vertically in a range of industries, including construction, retail, and manufacturing.
  • Two-point scaffold: Also known as swing-stage scaffolds, these are one of the most common types of scaffolding. They are hung by ropes or cables connected to stirrups at the end of the platform. Oftentimes, they are used by window washers on skyscrapers but are also used in high-rise construction projects.

What Steps Should Be Taken to Ensure that Scaffolding is Safe?

When scaffolding is used at a construction site, it is crucial that the appropriate safety guidelines are closely followed. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all employers, supervisors, and workers must comply with the scaffolding safety regulations. The following considerations should be a top priority:

  • Proper design: Scaffolding must be designed so that it can support its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it. If there are complex scaffolding systems being used, it may be necessary to consult with an engineer who can determine the heavy load points on the scaffolding and ensure that the system is safe and secure.
  • Training personnel: All employees who will be working on scaffolding must be properly trained before installing or working on a scaffolding system. Training should include a thorough review of each of the specific scaffolding systems, as well as fall protections and fall-arrest equipment.
  • Fall protection: All employees who will be working on scaffolding must be provided with the appropriate safety equipment. The specific equipment required will depend on the type and height of the scaffolding, but examples of common fall protection equipment include hard hats, full-body harnesses, rope grabs, independent vertical lifelines, and an independent lifeline anchorage.

Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents

According to a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 70 percent of workers injured in a scaffolding accident said that the accident was the result of a fall, being struck by a falling object, or the scaffolding structure giving way. The BLS reported that scaffolding accidents are responsible for approximately 4,500 injuries and 60 fatalities each year. Many of the serious scaffolding accidents are caused by the following:

  • Falling materials hitting a worker
  • Workers falling from scaffolding surfaces
  • Poor scaffolding construction
  • Inclement weather and other environmental conditions, including wind, rain, ice, and the presence of toxic gases
  • Overloading of scaffolding and other parts failures
  • Scaffolding failures at attachment points
  • Inadequate fall protection
  • Failure to enforce work rules

How can I Prevent Scaffolding Accidents?

According to OSHA, there are thousands of serious and fatal injuries that can be prevented if employers and workers follow the scaffolding safety regulations, including the following:

  • All scaffolding structures must be built on solid footing and be sound and rigid.
  • Scaffolds and planks should never be supported by barrels, boxes, loose bricks, concrete blocks, or other unstable objects.
  • When a scaffold is being erected, moved, dismantled, or altered in any way, the crew must be supervised by a trained and competent professional.
  • All scaffolds must be equipped with guardrails, mid-rails, toe boards, and other lifesaving fall protection.
  • If a scaffold’s accessories, including braces, brackets, trusses, screw legs, or ladders, are damaged or weakened, they must be repaired or replaced immediately.
  • When securing or tightening the plank platforms, workers must use scaffold plank grade material or the equivalent.
  • A trained professional must inspect and re-inspect the scaffolding at appropriate intervals.
  • When suspension scaffolds are being used, the rigging must be inspected before each shift and after any incident that could impact the structural integrity of the scaffold. The qualified professional responsible for the inspection must ensure that all scaffolding connections are tight and that there is no visible damage present.
  • Construction employees who are working on suspension scaffolds must be provided with protection against heat-producing sources associated with handling synthetic and natural ropes.
  • Workers must be trained on the hazards associated with diagonal braces when used as fall protection.
  • All scaffolds must be accessible by using ladders and stairwells.
  • Scaffolds must be set up at least 10 feet from electric power lines.

What are the Most Common Types of Scaffolding Injuries?

Owing to the nature of scaffolding accidents and the fact that workers can slip or fall from a surface that is several stories high, these accidents can cause very serious injuries that often require surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and even long-term care, particularly if the accident caused a spinal cord injury or a serious brain injury. Examples of common scaffolding injuries include the following:

  • Amputations
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Organ damage
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

What Should I Do If I am Injured in a Scaffolding Accident?

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment to all employees. That means ensuring that the workplace is safe and free of hazards, and that all workers receive the appropriate training and personal protective equipment necessary to safely do their job. If a worker is seriously injured in a scaffolding accident, whether they fell from an elevated surface or suffered some other type of injury, they will likely be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, including lost wages, medical expenses, physical and occupational therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. Because these accidents can often be quite serious, the worker may require extensive medical treatment and even long-term care. The injured worker must notify his or her employer about the injury and file a claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission.

In addition to Workers’ Compensation, the injured employee may also pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim if a third party other than the worker’s employer was responsible for his or her injury. For example, if the scaffolding is supplied and put up by a company that is not the primary employer on the construction site, the injured worker could file a personal injury claim. The worker may be able to collect compensation for pain and suffering, lost income, and other losses in addition to the money that Workers’ Compensation insurance provides. A skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer will be able to assist the injured worker and recommend the best legal course of action.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Financial Compensation for Victims of Scaffolding Accidents

If you were seriously injured in a scaffolding accident while on the job, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that your legal rights are protected. We understand how devastating these injuries can be, and we will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for the medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with the injury. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.