Preventing Scaffolding Accidents
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates, fatalities for construction workers occur largely due to falls in or at the workplace.
As the job description of construction crews involves building structures, they are often required to climb ladders, stairs (there could be debris all over the stairs as well from working materials), and/or work at extreme heights. This increases the risk of falling and getting injured. A fall from a significant height can lead to a devastating injury. One of the main causes of these types of falls is the collapse of scaffolding used by construction workers.Causes of Scaffolding Accidents
Here are some of the key causes of scaffolding related accidents:
- Workers who lack adequate training about scaffolding safety
- An absence of harnesses or poorly secured harnesses
- Scaffolding that is not secured well or is improperly constructed
- The planks that workers stand on are damaged or defective in some way
- Lack of guardrails or insufficient guardrails
- Ineffectual workplace rules
- Falling objects
- Inadequate or faulty safety gear
- Scaffolding component failure caused due to overload
- Inclement weather conditions like rain, snow, wind, or extreme cold
- Presence of poisonous gases in the area
- Improper operating procedures
If a scaffold collapses and causes a construction worker to fall, some of the following injuries may occur:
- Lacerations or contusions
- Splintered or broken bones
- Injuries to the spinal cord
- Internal bleeding and/or damage to internal organs
- Traumatic brain injuries
A large number of workers who fall as a result of unsafe scaffolding are likely to need advanced medical care. Some of the survivors might also be left with permanent disabilities.
Watch YouTube Video: Deadly Construction Scaffolding Mistakes. This animated video, created by OSHA, provides some basic tips on how to reduce and prevent scaffold accidents.Safety Guidelines for Scaffolding Use
As per a recent study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 72% of workers who suffered injuries in scaffold-related accidents reported that it occurred because of weak support or planking, or being hit by a falling object, or slipping.
The BLS states that adopting safeguards against scaffold-related accidents can help prevent more than 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually.
Federal statistics reveal that falls account for nearly 35% of workplace fatalities in the construction sector. Being hit by heavy objects or materials falling off a scaffold as well as slipping from scaffolds may also result in serious injuries.
People who erect and dismantle scaffolds, those who work on the scaffolds, passersby, and construction labor are all vulnerable to scaffolding hazards. Workers involved with erecting and dismantling scaffolds are at maximum risk as they work on these structures prior to the proper installation of platforms, ladders, planks, and guardrails.Workplace Rules for Scaffolding Use
The Department of Labor recommends that employers should put in place a suitable policy and workplace rules for safe erection and use of scaffolds. The primary focus should be on:
- Safe Design: The design of the scaffold should be such that it can bear its own weight along with about four times the maximum load it is intended to support. Seeking an engineer’s opinion on complicated scaffolding systems can help pinpoint the heavy-load points.
- Evaluating the Scaffold: A careful assessment of the particular scaffolding system, as well as its appropriate use, must be determined. It also includes reviewing fall protection safeguards such as guardrails on the scaffolding. Selecting the right type of fall-arrest equipment, its correct use, and care is also an equally vital task.
- Safety Gear: It is the employer’s responsibility to provide workers with suitable safety equipment. This can include hard hats, full-body harnesses, lanyard, rope grab, independent lifeline anchorage, and an independent vertical line.
- Professional Training: Working on scaffolding requires systematic training in order to acquire the skill to accomplish the construction task while ensuring personal safety. Employers should have a thorough training procedure in place, including periodic refresher training programs even for trained and experienced workers. Nothing should be assumed. Nothing should be taken for granted. This is not the time to be cutting corners.
- Always wipe off spills and clear construction debris from the scaffolding system to avoid slipping or tripping that can cause falling.
- Frequently check safety equipment to ensure it is functioning properly and replace any damaged or worn out parts.
- Put in place a system that alerts management in the event of damaged parts or defective operation of the ladder or scaffolding systems. This will ensure that these are promptly repaired or moved out of the construction area.
There should be specific workplace guidelines for using, erecting, dismantling, and altering scaffolding. The lead supervisors should be skilled, experienced, and trained to make sure that installation and dismantling are done safely as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.Employer’s Duties for Workplace Safety
With its numerous local and state laws, California has set in place a rigorous workplace health and safety program. California has announced a large number of health and safety standards that are known as “Safety Orders.” These safety orders often address concerns more rigorously than the laws under federal OSHA and even cover areas that are not regulated by federal law. This state has exceeded other states in most of these categories.
Thorough and effective workplace health and safety compliance in California requires employers to have adequate knowledge and understanding of the state’s relevant safety standards. Employers should be aware of how a workplace accident investigation works and how the law in California imposes increased penalties for willful or repeated violations.Scaffolding Accident Lawyers in Sacramento
I'm Ed Smith, a Workers' Compensation Attorney in Sacramento. If you or someone you love has been injured in a scaffolding accident, call me at (800) 404-5400 or 916.921.6400 for free, friendly advice.
Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.4.19]
Photo by pixabay.com
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