Scaffolds are temporary frameworks that allow construction workers to reach high places when working on a building. Approximately 2.3 million people work with scaffolds, and each year, there are about 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths from scaffolding and construction-related fall accidents.
While federal and state regulations demand strict worksite safety standards, construction accidents are still far too common. Many worksite injuries are the result of a scaffolding collapse, but other incidents can result in harm as well.
Common Causes for Scaffolding Accidents
- Scaffolding collapse from weak, rusted, or loose joints
- Falls due to slippery conditions, inadequate planking, or an unsafe incline
- Safety gear (such as tethers or hardhats) is defective or improperly attached
- Unsecured objects (like tools) fall and hit someone
- Scaffolding close to electrical wires causes electrocution
What to Do After a Scaffolding Accident
See if anyone is hurt – Injuries from a scaffolding accident can range from minor to very serious. Take stock of your injuries as well as other people’s, and make sure no one is in critical condition. Call an ambulance if immediate assistance is needed.
Seek medical attention – It is always important to get checked out by a medical professional right away, even if it seems you are not hurt, to make sure you are not suffering from any internal injuries or other hidden problems, such as brain injuries. It also establishes paperwork that can be useful in filing for worker’s compensation or another scaffolding accident claim later.
Evaluate the safety for other workers – Make sure the scaffold is brought up to legal standards before any other workers enter the area. If necessary, close off the dangerous location until it can be evaluated by a supervisor or safety inspector.
File a report – Filing an official report right away is highly recommended to ensure that all the details are still fresh in your mind. Having a report on hand can also speed up the process for worker’s compensation or a personal injury lawsuit.
Find a law firm – Before signing papers or receiving worker’s compensation, discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer to make sure that you are receiving all damages that are rightfully yours. Do not let your employer bully you into acting too quickly, or without legal counsel.
OSHA Scaffolding Safety Checklist
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works with state lawmakers to ensure worker safety during construction projects that use scaffolding. To help, OSHA created a checklist of scaffolding requirements to ensure worker safety.
Selected Requirements from OSHA Scaffolding Checklist
- Scaffolds must able to carry their own weight plus four times the maximum intended load.
- Scaffolds have to be equipped with guardrails, midrails and toeboards.
- Unstable objects, such as barrels, boxes, loose bricks or concrete blocks must not be used to support scaffolds or planks.
- Must use scaffold plank grade material.
- Scaffolds must undergo proper inspection and reinspection and speficied intervals.
- Employees must be instructed about the hazards of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
- Scaffolds must be at least 10 feet from electric power lines at all times.
- In addition, proper training is required for all personnel who will be required to be around or on a scaffold while working.
Scaffolding Lawsuit Options
Even if you qualify for and receive worker’s compensation, you may still be eligible for additional compensation. These damages can be sought by filing either scaffolding accident claims.
- Personal injury claims are filed by individuals hurt in a scaffolding accident.
- Wrongful death claims are filed by loved ones of an individual who died due to injuries sustained in a scaffolding accident.
Reputable scaffold accident lawyers will typically offer an initial consultation for free. It’s a good idea to get in touch with an accident attorney as soon as possible, since the statute of limitations in your state may prevent you from exercising your legal rights if you wait too long.
Liability laws may change from state to state, but in most cases, the safety of scaffolding and the workers on a construction site falls on the shoulders of the employer or contractor in charge. Supervisors and managers are responsible for ensuring that proper materials are used and erection standards are met; they are also required to inspect scaffolding on a regular basis to ensure worker safety.
In New York, workers are uniquely protected, as labor law states that all responsibility for injuries from falls is in the hands of the construction company. Other states may place responsibility with the scaffolding company, or put responsibility on the workers for accidents not caused by a faulty scaffold.
Worker’s compensation is designed to benefit both the employee and employer in the case of a worksite accident. For employees, worker’s comp covers medical expenses, along with a portion of the employee’s salary. For employers, it provides a “no-fault” insurance program, where employees agree not to sue the employer for additional compensation.
However, there are many instances in which worker’s compensation is either denied, or may not be sufficient to cover income loss or other damages. Injured workers may be denied compensation for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- The claim is not reported or filed on time.
- The employer disputes the claim.
- The worker declined to receive medical treatment.
If your employer is denying you compensation, it’s important to go through all the details with your personal injury attorney. They may be able to fight for your right to worker’s compensation, or they might suggest a lawsuit against your employer instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a construction accident attorney?
The best way to tell if you need have a case is to speak to a scaffolding injury lawyer with experience handling construction-related lawsuits. They will be able to advise you on how to move forward, and help you get the compensation you deserve.
What if I was walking by a scaffolding when I was injured?
As a bystander, if scaffolding collapses on you, or construction materials fall from scaffolding and injure you, you do have the right to sue. Your case may involve a suit against the general contractor, the property owner, or the company employing the construction worker, depending on how the scaffolding accident happened.
Can I work while receiving worker’s compensation?
You may not find a new job while receiving worker’s compensation. All your income must be properly reported; if it’s not, you may be liable for fraud under the law. If you had a second job at the time of injury, you may report it as part of your income. You may be eligible to receive partial wage coverage from worker’s compensation for both jobs.
Failure to disclose all income, or working while receiving worker’s compensation, is considered fraud and can lead to serious legal action against you.
What is “Light Duty”?
Your doctor may release you to “light duty,” meaning that you are well enough to perform work like clerical duties. Your doctor will specify limits on your physical abilities, which your employer must adhere to. If your employer has light duty work available, they are obligated to offer it to you. If the light duty work pays less than your previous position, disability wages may be able to cover a portion of the difference.
If you decline light duty work, this may have a negative effect on your worker’s benefits. In many states, turning down light duty will strip you of wage loss benefits. Some states may also rescind rehabilitation benefits in this case.
How do I report an OSHA scaffolding violation?
To report an OSHA standards violation, such as unsafe scaffolding or a scaffolding accident that occurred at your worksite, you have several options: