Most construction workers use scaffolds at some point and scaffolding represents a serious safety hazard for workers. A scaffold that is not properly assembled or constructed, or scaffolding that does not meet specific safety regulations is at a higher risk of collapsing or causing a worker injury or fatality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 61 fatalities nationwide in the year 2018 from scaffolding accidents all of which could have been prevented by compliance with regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Sadly, there are still a number of construction companies and contractors who don't quite follow scaffolding safety regulations. Here are some of those regulations that could help prevent scaffolding injuries and death.
Fall Arrest Systems
Scaffolds must contain fall protection or fall arrest systems. The failure to place proper fall arrest systems is one of the most common causes of scaffolding injuries. Pertaining regulations apply to any situation in which employees will be working at a distance of 10 or more feet from the level below them. A fall protection system refers to the placement of guardrails to protect workers from falling should the scaffold begin to sway due to winds or weather conditions or if the worker loses their footing. Fall arrest systems refer to harnesses and other safety devices worn by workers that tether the worker to a higher point thereby enabling them to avoid hitting the ground even if they fall.
Regulations for guardrails
Guardrails must be of a certain height in order to be effective as a fall protection system. For example, a guardrail that is positioned too low will not offer much protection from falls. Similarly, if the guardrail is to high, it might cause workers who are shorter to slip through the gap. OSHA therefore closely regulates the height of guardrails in fall protection systems. Scaffolds manufactured after Jan. 1, 2000 are required to have guardrails whose top rail is between 38 and 45 inches from the surface of the platform.
A scaffold by itself does not provide a proper system for safe movement. Planking must be installed as walkways on all scaffolding. This provides a stable surface on which workers can move as they do their jobs. OSHA regulations require every portion of a scaffold platform to be covered with a strong form of planking. Also, the planking should not leave any gaps greater than an inch wide between the platform and the building. A vast majority of major injury or fatal scaffolding accidents occur because the planking gives way. And that's often because they don't meet safety regulations.
Scaffolding planks may consist of solid wood, synthetic or fabricated planks, or specially fabricated platforms. The main requirement is that the planking must be able to support it's own weight and four times the intended load. Where lumber is to used as planking, it must be graded to meet the minimum strength standard.
Liability in Scaffolding Accidents
There is a reason why these regulations are in place. By sticking to these safety regulations, workers can enjoy the safe work environment they deserve. There are a number of parties other than the employer that could be held liable for a scaffolding accident. For example, if a scaffold gave way because it was constructed with defective parts, the manufacturer of the parts can be held liable.
If the scaffolding was constructed defectively, then the company that put up the scaffold can be held liable. In addition, other parties such as general contractors, sub-contractors and property owners could also be held liable, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
When You Need a Scaffolding Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in a scaffolding accident, our experienced Los Angeles scaffold injury lawyers can help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties and help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. Call Greenberg & Ruby LLP at (323) 782-0535 for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.