Scaffolding / Falls

More than 2 million construction workers in the U.S. – about 65 percent – routinely depend on scaffolds to do their job.

These temporary, elevated work platforms allow workers to complete certain projects at heights with greater stability and balance than a ladder. Of course, that assumes the device has been properly raised, used and lowered.

Fort Lauderdale construction accident lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm know that unfortunately, scaffolding collapse and scaffolding falls are a serious problem on Florida work sites.

In many cases, scaffolding collapses and falls are often caused by negligent construction and maintenance of the scaffold. Another common issue is contractors who fail to provide workers with basic fall protection hazards when working at heights.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports nearly 40 percent of all construction accident deaths are caused by falls. Of the top 10 most frequently-cited standard violations in 2015 construction accidents, failure to provide adequate fall protection was No. 1. Scaffolding requirement breaches were No. 3.

In cases where a contractor or owner at a construction site fails to provide the right safety equipment, the end result is often catastrophic injuries or death. Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience in helping workers and their families recover both workers’ compensation benefits and third-party damages. We recognize workers’ compensation benefits are only going to go so far, and identifying negligent parties aside from one’s direct employer can ultimately result in greater financial security for the injured worker.

What Causes Scaffold Collapses and Falls?

There are three basic types of scaffolding used in construction:

  • Supported – rigid load-bearing members like poles, legs, frames and outriggers provide support;
  • Suspended – hang by ropes or some other kind of non-rigid means from a structure overhead;
  • Aerial lifts – attached to work vehicles, like cherry pickers or boom trucks, to raise workers to certain heights.

Any of these are subject to collapse, but the type we see most commonly are supported scaffolds.

A myriad of factors may play into a scaffold collapse or a fall from one.

Some of those include:

  • Negligent scaffold construction. Scaffolds have to be built properly for the conditions in order to avoid problems that could impact structural integrity. Generally, it’s the owners, general contractors and employers who owe a duty to ensure all workers on scaffolds are not at risk of falls. The BLS reports more than 70 percent of all scaffolding accidents involved the support or planking giving way.
  • Negligent safety precautions . A huge percentage of scaffolding accidents happen because either the support or planking gave way or a worker wasn’t protected by guards, safely lines or netting. These are basic precautions that are required by law. A violation is a clear sign of negligence. A significant number of workers do not receive adequate training for work on scaffolds, the BLS reports.
  • Improper scaffolding for the job. Certain jobs require certain types of scaffolds. Failure to erect the right one could result in serious harm to workers. Specific scaffolding standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, marine terminals and longshoring are addressed by each.
  • Manufacturing error or design flaw. Companies that design, produce and sell scaffolding and related equipment are responsible to make sure they are safe for use as instructed. Workers must be adequately warned about any equipment that may be unsafe.
Critical Elements of Safe Scaffolding

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth the safety standards for scaffolds used in the construction industry in 29 CFR Part 1926. The goal is to protect workers from the top scaffold-related dangers, including:

  • Falls
  • Falling objects
  • Structural instability
  • Electrocution
  • Overloading

Government researchers have estimated that if all government industry standards were abided, it would prevent some 4,500 scaffolding accidents every year, saving 50 lives or more.

Some of the basic safety elements critical to ensuring scaffold safety are:

  • Correct construction . A scaffold that is built according to federal standards of structural integrity and strength will greatly reduce the risk of a scaffold collapse or injury. That means the scaffold has to be properly planked and capable of supporting four times the indicated load. Further, it should be no taller than four times the minimum dimension of the base unless there are special precautions in place.
  • Safe access . Access to and from the scaffold from one surface to another – especially where there are varied incomes – should be strictly limited.
  • Competent personnel. Site supervisors and workers must be properly trained and watched. A competent person must be in charge of choosing and directing workers to build, alter, move or dismantle the scaffold. Workers need to be trained to detect visible defects on sight. This professional also must be the one to make smart judgment calls for scaffold use during inclement weather, and should check for structural integrity issues at the beginning and end of each shift.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a scaffolding fall or accident, we can help you recover damages.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (888) 267-2728 or locally at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.