Falls are one of the top 3 causes of injury and fatality on a construction worksite, and most falls involve scaffolding. Scaffolding-related fall accidents can lead to catastrophic life-altering injuries, like brain and spinal cord injuries.
In 1996, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reviewed its scaffolding standards. During that time, estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that approximately a quarter of all workers injured in scaffolding accidents had not been trained in scaffold safety. Further, the agency found that approximately 77% of scaffolds did not come equipped with guard rails in order to protect workers from falls.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes that trained workers, and informed employers who comply with scaffolding safety standards, can help prevent as many as 4,500 scaffolding-related accidents every year.
Causes of Scaffolding Accidents
Most scaffolding-related accidents occur when the planking or support disintegrates, or when an employee slips from the scaffolding. Although falls constitute the majority of all scaffolding -related accidents, these are not the only types of scaffolding accidents. Workers can also be injured when they’re working on scaffolding, and are struck by falling debris.
Additionally, workers can be electrocuted, or can suffer devastating electrical injuries when they’re working on scaffolding, and come into contact with high tension overhead power lines.
Prevention of Scaffolding Accidents
Scaffolding accidents can be prevented by taking some basic and minimum measures in order to protect workers.
The use of guard rails on scaffolding can help reduce the risk of fall accidents. Workers must be equipped with fall protection gear. Workers who are provided personal fall arrest systems have a much higher chance of surviving a fall.
Scaffolding accidents that involve bad planking or scaffolding collapses can be eliminated by ensuring that scaffoldingconstruction is done properly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a number of requirements that scaffolding must meet, and employers must make sure that all scaffolding is in compliance with all these requirements. Even after the scaffolding has been constructed according to OSHA requirements, it must be inspected by a competent person.
In order to prevent accidents that result from falling debris and tools, it is important to prevent workers from entering the work area that is located below the scaffolding, and construct nets that help catch falling tools. The scaffolding must not be overloaded with all types of equipment and too many workers.
Electrical-related scaffolding accidents can be prevented by the use of protective covering, locating high tension power lines, and making sure that there is a sufficient distance between the scaffolding and the lines.
John J. Sheehan is a Boston construction accident attorney, dedicated to the representation of workers who have suffered injuries in scaffolding accidents, and other accidents on construction sites in the Boston region and across Massachusetts.