Falls are the most common type of construction accident in the United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Construction accident falls typically happen when workers are not equipped with proper fall protection equipment or when the worksite lacks guardrails, handrails or safety nets. These types of accidents are preventable when contractors and construction companies follow OSHA's safety standards and create a safe work environment for laborers.
When workers have to work at an elevation such as on a roof or scaffold, things can get dangerous very quickly. When ladders or scaffolds are not properly constructed, maintained or inspected, devastating falls can occur.
Why Falling is the Most Common Accident in Construction
Falls are also one of the most common causes of construction injuries and fatalities in California. Falls in construction frequently involve slippery, cluttered or unstable walking or working surfaces, unprotected edges, floor holes or wall openings, unsafely positioned ladders and lack of fall protection devices. Title 8 of California Code of Regulations specifies several requirements for fall protection in construction. Here are some of the main factors that lead to a construction accident fall including:
- Defective construction equipment
- Damaged ladders
- Dangerous or defective scaffolding
- Not using fall safety equipment
- Tripping hazards and unsecured open floors
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2020, more than one in five workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry. Just over one-third of the deaths in this industry were because of slips, trips and falls, and were almost entirely from falls to a lower level. The construction industry accounted for 46.1% of all fatal falls, slips, and trips in 2020.
OSHA Requirements for Fall Protection
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 6 feet in the construction industry and 5 feet in shipyards. In addition, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery regardless of the fall distance.
In order to prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:
- Guard floor holes through which workers can accidentally fall by using a floor hole cover or toe-board.
- Provide guardrails and toe-boards around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway.
- If a worker is operating near or over dangerous machines or equipment, guardrails and toe-boards must be provided to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
Types of Construction Fall Injuries
Construction site falls could lead to serious injuries including:
Head injuries or traumatic brain injuries: These are among the most common injuries that occur as a result of construction-related falls. Head injuries could range from concussions to more serious injuries such as skull fractures or brain bleeds, which could require surgery, extensive rehabilitation as well as ongoing treatment and care. Brain injuries could also result in permanent disabilities and loss of livelihood.
Broken bones or fractures: Broken bones may not prove fatal, but they can also require significant recovery time and prove costly. Workers may need to take several weeks or months off to recover from these injuries. They may also require extensive rehabilitative treatment such as physical therapy to recover strength, balance and flexibility in the affected parts of the body. Hip fractures are also extremely common in fall-related construction accidents. Such injuries could result in the worker's loss of livelihood or disfigurement.
Spinal cord damage: A fall could result in major spinal injuries including spinal fractures and paralysis. This leaves individuals with permanent disabilities and often, a need for long-term therapy and care.
Amputation: Depending on the type of fall, a worker could also suffer limb amputation. This is a catastrophic injury leading to permanent disabilities. Those who have suffered amputations could require extensive medical treatment and costly devices such as prosthetics. They also deal with lost income and loss of earning potential.
Death: Falls are also among the leading causes of deaths in construction. Falls from heights almost always result in fatalities.
Damages in Construction Fall Accidents
Here are some of the damages workers can seek in a construction accident lawsuit against a third party such as a contractor, sub-contractor, property owner or manufacturer of a defective product:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income and lost future income
- Loss of earning potential
- Permanent injuries and disabilities
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Families of deceased victims may be able to seek compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit for damages including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, pain and suffering and loss of care and companionship.
How a California Construction Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you have sustained injuries in a construction fall accident, you should not have to pay for your medical expenses and other costs out of pocket. You may be able to seek compensation through the workers' comp system, which covers medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.
However, workers' compensation often does not adequately cover all damages and losses. In addition to workers' comp, you may also be able to file a third-party lawsuit against a party other than the employer. An experienced Los Angeles construction accident lawyer at Greenberg and Ruby Injury Attorneys, APC can help determine whether third parties may be at fault for your accident. Call us to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.