According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65% of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents could help prevent nearly 4,500 injuries 60 fatalities each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates.
In a recent BLS study, 72% of workers injured in scaffolding accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way or to a worker slipping or being struck by a falling object. OSHA's scaffolding standards are in place precisely to prevent these common scaffold injury causes.
Main Provisions of OSHA's Scaffolding Standard
Here are the key provisions of OSHA's scaffolding standard:
Fall protection: Each worker who is operating more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system. Each worker on a single-point and two-point adjustable suspended scaffold must be protected by both a personal fall arrest system as well as a guardrail.
Guardrail height: The height of the top rail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service after Jan. 1, 2000, must be between 38 inches and 45 inches. The height of the top rail for scaffolds manufactured and placed in service before that date can be between 36 inches and 45 inches.
Cross bracing: When the cross point of cross bracing is used as a top rail, it must be between 38 inches and 48 inches above the work platform. When a cross point or cross bracing is used as a mid-rail, it must be between 20 inches and 30 inches above the work platform.
Footings: Support scaffold footing should be level and able to support the weight of a loaded scaffold. The legs, poles, frames and uprights must bear on base plates and mud sills.
Capacity: Scaffolds and scaffold components must support at least four times the maximum intended load. Suspension scaffold rigging must support at least six times the intended load.
Training: Employers must train each employee who works on a scaffold so they understand the hazards of such work and how to control the hazards. Such training must include fall hazards, falling object hazards, electrical hazards, proper use of the scaffold, and handling of materials.
Inspections: Before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity of the scaffold, a competent person must inspect the scaffold and its components for any visible defects.
Erecting and dismantling: When erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds, a competent person must determine the feasibility of providing a safe means of access as well as fall protection for these operations.
Potentially Liable Third Parties
There are a number of parties other than an employer who could potentially be held liable for a scaffolding accident. Such accidents are not always completely the employer's fault. Sometimes, scaffolding accidents occur because of a faulty piece of equipment from the manufacturer, a construction company or contractor who improperly or unsafely constructed a scaffold. In such cases, workers can file a third-party scaffold injury lawsuit seeking compensation for their injuries damages and losses.
While workers' compensation benefits provide compensation for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages, a personal injury lawsuit may reimburse workers for lost future income, cost of rehabilitation, expenses relating to continued treatment and care, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Therefore, a third-party lawsuit will be worth significantly more than what you receive in workers' compensation benefits. Since scaffolding accidents often result in catastrophic injuries or death, workers' compensation benefits are also often woefully inadequate when it comes to compensating injured employees and families that have lost a primary wage earner.
How Our Experienced Lawyers Can Help
At Greenberg & Ruby LLP, our scaffold injury lawyers have significant experience filing third-party claims in scaffolding and construction accident cases. We will leave no avenue unexplored when it comes to helping you receive maximum compensation for your losses. Call us at (323) 782-0535 to schedule a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.