What Safety Precautions Should be Taken to Prevent Scaffolding Accidents?May 5, 2021
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), scaffolding accidents cause approximately 60 fatalities and 4,500 serious injuries each year. Roughly 25 percent of the fatalities are caused by falls from elevated work surfaces. When constructed properly and workers follow the recommended safety protocols, scaffolding can be safe work environments. However, when these safety protocols are not followed or the scaffolding has not been assembled properly, the risk for serious injuries and fatalities is very high. Although scaffolding is an essential component at many busy construction sites because it allows workers to gain access to heights that they may not be able to reach otherwise, even a small error can result in a devastating scaffolding accident. A skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer can assist the injured worker with the claims process and secure the financial benefits he or she deserves.
What are the Different Types of Scaffolding?
A scaffold is any type of temporary, elevated work platform that allows construction workers to gain access to elevated heights or hard-to-reach areas. There are many types of scaffolding used in the construction industry. The following are examples of the most common types that are used today:
- Single scaffolding: Also referred to as brick layer’s scaffolding, this is one of the oldest types of scaffolding. It has a single framework of standards, ledgers, and putlogs that are set up parallel to the wall at a distance of about 1.2 meters.
- Double scaffolding: This is used primarily for stone masonry construction projects. The double scaffolding provides additional sturdiness necessary to support putlogs. Once the frames have been properly positioned, the putlogs can be added to complete the scaffold.
- Cantilever scaffolding: These are used if the ground is too weak to support standards, if the upper part of the wall is to be carried out, or if the ground is close to the wall and free from traffic. This type of scaffolding requires numerous safety and precautionary checks.
- Suspended scaffolding: This works by suspending the working platform from the roof using a rope or chains. This type of scaffolding is used in a range of construction projects, including painting and repair work. The height of the platform can be adjusted to the desired level.
- Trestle scaffolding: In this type of scaffolding, the working platform is supported on movable ladders or tripods. It has a maximum height of five meters.
- Steel scaffolding: These use steel tubes instead of wooden members, and steel couplets or fittings are used instead of rope lashings. Steel scaffolding can be erected and dismantled quickly. Because it has greater strength, durability, and higher fire resistance, steel scaffolding is often used in high-rise buildings. The initial cost is higher, but it has a higher salvage value.
- Patented scaffolding: Also made of steel, patented scaffolding is fitted with special frames and couplings. Because they are ready-made, they can be purchased in-store and used as soon as it is bought. The working platform is set on brackets that can be adjusted to the desired height.
- Kwikstage scaffolding: This easy-to-install scaffolding is used in a range of construction projects. It uses a safe and durable interlocking system that provides a resilient working platform that can be adjusted to any desired height.
What are the Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents?
Many scaffolding accidents can be prevented if the appropriate safety protocols are followed and the scaffolding is properly constructed. A recent BLS study found that over 70 percent of scaffold accidents are caused by the following:
- Defective equipment or improper assembly of the scaffolding causes support planks to give way.
- Slippery surfaces or missing guardrails causes workers to slip or trip when working on a scaffold.
- Falling objects from a higher level strike a worker who is working on a lower level or on the ground.
The remaining 28 percent of scaffolding accidents are caused by the following:
- Scaffolding and equipment that is set up too close to power lines can cause serious electrocution accidents.
- Wind, rain, and other environmental conditions can cause scaffolding accidents.
- Failure to provide the necessary fall protection equipment increases the risk of scaffolding accidents.
- If the scaffolding is overloaded, it could collapse.
What are Common Scaffolding Accident Injuries?
Scaffolding accidents often involve falls from heights, which can result in devastating injuries or fatalities if the worker fell from a scaffolding that was several stories above the ground. In addition to the workers, pedestrians in the vicinity of a scaffolding accident can also suffer serious injuries from falling debris or if a scaffolding collapses. The following are examples of common scaffolding-related injuries:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries, including partial or complete paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal organ damage
How can Scaffolding Accidents be Prevented?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), scaffolding is one of the most dangerous devices used at construction sites. Safety should always be a top priority when working on or near scaffolding. To prevent scaffolding-related accidents at busy construction sites, workers are urged to keep the following safety recommendations in mind:
- Comply with all current and proposed OSHA scaffolding-related regulations. Each scaffold must be able to support its own weight plus at least four times the maximum intended load. Each suspension rope must be able to support at least six times the maximum intended load.
- Make sure that the design and the construction of the scaffolding meet the OSHA safety requirements.
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidance regarding assembly, rigging, and use of scaffolding.
- Conduct regular inspections on the scaffold, including after erection and each day the scaffold is in use.
- Make sure that the scaffold is leveled and plumbed, and that the base plates, sills, or footers are on solid ground.
- Do not use any scaffolding parts that are damaged or bent.
- Do not overload scaffolding. Follow the safe loading capacities provided by the manufacturer. Even steel scaffolding has a limit to what it can support.
- Overhead canopies should be used to protect those who are working on lower levels.
- Suspension ropes, body belts, and harness system drop lines should be protected from hot or corrosive substances.
- Personal fall protection equipment should be worn at all times.
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Scaffolding Accident?
Chances are, if a construction worker was involved in a scaffolding accident, it is likely that he or she suffered very serious injuries. Depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injury, the worker may be unable to return to work for an extended period. In addition, the expenses associated with the injury can accumulate very quickly. As a result, it is very important that the worker is compensated for things such as medical expenses, lost wages, and any other expenses related to the injury. If a worker suffered a serious injury in a scaffolding accident, the first thing they must do is report the accident to their employer. The next step is to file an injury claim in order to be reimbursed for any damages that they suffered. There are two options the injured worker may pursue, including the following:
- Workers’ Compensation claim: This provides financial compensation to workers who were injured during the course of employment. With this type of claim, the injured party is not legally required to prove fault in order to receive compensation. Workers’ Compensation insurance will cover medical expenses, lost income, vocational training costs, partial compensation for permanent injuries, and death benefits if the worker’s injuries resulted in a fatality.
- Personal injury claim: If the accident was caused by a defective scaffold, the injured worker may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer. This type of lawsuit would also be appropriate if a bystander was seriously injured in a scaffolding accident. Although the injured worker is not legally required to prove fault in a Workers’ Compensation claim, he or she will have to prove that the company or individual responsible for the scaffolding was negligent. The damages that the injured worker will receive will depend on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries. However, he or she will likely be compensated for economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and reduced quality of life.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Secure Justice for Victims of Scaffolding Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a scaffolding accident, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident and recommend the best legal course of action. Our skilled legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the full financial benefits to which you are entitled. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.