Houston Scaffolding Accident Attorneys
Helping Workers Injured in Ladder Accidents & Scaffolding Falls
Scaffolding is a common sight in the construction industry. Scaffolding is a support system, much like a ladder, that allows workers to reach greater heights for the repair or construction of large buildings. The scaffolding is made up of a network of metal pipes with platforms for the workers to stand on while they are working. There are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards in place to regulate scaffolding, so it is safe, yet falls from scaffolding is still one of the leading causes of injury and death in the construction industry today.
Statistics indicate that about 10,000 accidents each year involve scaffolding. Despite regulations, why do these accidents continue to occur? Scaffolding can be assembled improperly, for one. Workers that construct the scaffolding in haste risk making costly mistakes. Scaffolding should also be inspected before use, but failure to inspect thoroughly or inspect at all can also result in accidents. Many scaffolds do not even comply with OSHA standards at all. This is an example of a blatant safety violation, and it could warrant a company serious citations.
For more information and insight that applies to your unique scaffolding accident case, contact our Houston offices today.
What Is Scaffolding?
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support workers and materials at a construction site. Scaffolds are often made from timber or steel, although sometimes they are thrown together with leftover scrap materials. Scaffolding set-ups are frequently constructed without pre-planning, resulting in many unsafe structures.
There are many types of scaffolding, but the most common are:
- Supported Scaffolds - One or more platforms supported by outrigger beams, brackets, poles, or other types of rigid support. Variations include ladder jack, pump jack, frame, tube and coupler, mobile, specialty and pole supports.
- Suspended Scaffolds - Platforms suspended by ropes or other flexible supports from an overhead structure. Types of suspended scaffolds include multi-point adjustable, multi-level, needle beam, boatswain's chair, interior hung, catenary, single-point adjustable and two-point adjustable scaffolds. Of these, two-point adjustable (swing stage) is the most commonly employed.
- Aerial Lifts – Basket-equipped constructs used to work at higher elevations. Scissor aerial lifts are considered mobile scaffolding and are constructed with x-shaped braces that extend upward. As the braces rise, the platform attached to the braces rises, too, allowing workers to reach new construction areas. Aerial lifts are often used to replace scaffolding in maritime construction sites.
Protection for Workers from Falls
The basic mission of the OSHA is to implement regulations to keep workers safe at work. They do this by requiring employers to provide safe working conditions. When employers do not abide by these standards, they are disregarding the safety of their employees and can consequently be held liable if one of their employees falls from scaffolding. Employer negligence is one of the leading causes of workplace accidents.
Employers must provide employees with fall protection equipment. Per OSHA, fall protection must be provided when a worker is expected to work at the height of four feet or greater in regular work environments. Standards differ in certain industries. For example, shipyard workers must be equipped with fall protection at heights of five feet or greater. Construction workers must be equipped with fall protection at six feet or higher.
Employers are also required to provide floor guards in cases where there are holes in the floor. Floor guards are called "toe-boards" or simply "floor hole covers" in the construction industry. Platforms that are open-sided must have guardrails to decrease the risk of scaffolding falls as well. Loose decking is a common cause of accidents in construction. Although the OSHA requires construction sites to be equipped with secure decking on scaffolding, many workers frequently operate on scaffolding without decking or with decking that has not been properly installed. Decking is required to ensure secure footing so a worker does not lose their balance and fall. If a worker does fall, they should be wearing a fall harness. Fall harnesses are only required in certain situations, so be sure to check about the necessity of this protective gear.
Click here to view a complete list of OSHA fall protection standards.
Common Scaffolding Accident Injuries
In a Bureau of Labor and Statistics study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents were hurt when planking or support gave way, or when they slipped or were struck by a falling object. These events can be prevented if construction sites comply with OSHA standards for scaffolds, yet all too many employers ignore these rules. When safety is not the employers' top priority, construction accidents are bound to occur. When the employees involved in construction are working at great heights, injuries sustained are usually serious or even fatal.
Common scaffolding-related injuries include:
- Falling from scaffolding due to lack of guardrails
- Scaffolding collapse due to improper construction or too much weight
- Falling objects hitting employees because the scaffolding zone was not restricted
- Electrocution due to scaffold construction in close proximity to power sources
- Pinched or crushed limbs sustained from improperly assembled scaffolding
Helping Victims of Ladder Falls in Texas & Nationwide
While many view a ladder as a simple tool to help with jobs like painting and construction, per the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 500,000+ people in the U.S. are treated for ladder-related injuries each year. At least 300 people die annually from these injuries. Many ladder injuries occur at work, and many are preventable with proper work conditions, equipment, and safety instructions. Without providing these conditions, employers who require employees to use ladders are in violation of OSHA requirements.
Tips for Avoiding Ladder Injuries
Ladder accidents frequently occur for both construction workers and people working at home. When looking specifically at construction site injuries, many accidents may be caused by the negligence of another worker or the employer; however, some accidents are directly caused by product malfunction, user error, or unsafe working conditions. Sadly, the number of accidents and injuries from ladders could have been significantly reduced had the users been in the proper working conditions and their equipment regularly checked for safety hazards.
First and foremost, you want to make sure the ladder you are about to climb on is safe before every use. While this may sound monotonous, you can never be sure your ladder hasn't been damaged or switched out when on a work site. All it takes is one time for a loose screw to pop out and send you crashing to the floor. Make sure when carrying a ladder, you do so with it parallel to the floor. Also, use caution when using the ladder or storing it. Be certain that it remains clear from any oils or gases as this may cause a slippery surface and create a hazard.
When using a ladder make sure you are aware of its maximum capacity for weight. Never exceed that amount. Ladders are tested to carry a certain number, and you don't want to be the person to discover where its breaking point is. When on a work site, make sure you and your co-workers properly mark off the surrounding area of your ladder so that it cannot be hit or affected by the surrounding location, such as traffic on the street.
By taking a few extra moments to do so, you may save a life.
Another common hazard to be aware of is using the wrong ladder for the work you are doing. Be certain that a ladder can be used and that you do not need a heavier duty device. Make sure that while you are on a ladder, you do not attempt to move or adjust it. Adjustments are meant to be done when there is no excess weight. It can be dangerous if done with you on it. A common mistake users make is to stand on the top step, which is dangerous. The top step will usually have a "do not step" sign. It is meant to place a can of paint or a tool as opposed to carrying your body.
For those who work with electrical equipment, make sure that your ladder is meant specifically for that. Use one that has non-conductive side rails to prevent electrocution while on the ladder. When climbing up or down the ladder, every user wants to make sure that they are facing the ladder and not trying to descend as they would a flight of stairs. If you can, use both hands to prevent falling. This can be done by wearing the proper tool belt around your waist, one that allows your hands to be free when trying to move on the ladder.
A simple instruction to remember when using a ladder is the "three points" rule. This means that if at all possible try to maintain at least three areas of your body in contact with the ladder. This can mean both feet and one and or one hand and both feet, by doing so will help prevent you from falling. Lastly, try to never lean over the width of the ladder, you can remember this by keeping your weight between both polls. Attempting to lean may throw off the balance of the ladder and could send you crashing to the floor. Safety is to be taken very seriously on the work site and even in your own home. Always use caution when climbing ladders and be aware of the potential dangers at hand. If you or someone you know has been injured in a workplace accident, contact Arnold & Itkin today for the legal representation that you deserve!
A Houston Ladder Accident Lawyer Can Help
Employers are required to provide safe working conditions for all of their employees. This means that employers must make sure to inspect, maintain, repair and train all of their employees and the workplace properly. A failure to do so can mean citations and fines, but it can also mean that you can take action against your employer for your injuries. Workers can file claims for compensation provided that their injuries were not self-inflicted.
Injured in a Ladder or Scaffolding Accident? Contact Arnold & Itkin Today!
If you were injured in a scaffolding accident while working at a construction job site or in a related field, then please do not hesitate to contact the Houston construction accident lawyers at Arnold & Itkin. Our firm has a history of representing numerous types of workers that are injured by employer or third party negligence. We are passionate about securing worker's rights and benefits after accidents leading to serious injury or wrongful death. You deserve the best results, and we will fight to secure them. No matter what.
To learn more about getting nationally-renowned representation, contact our firm at (888) 493-1629.