No one expects that a job in construction is the safest in the world, but that doesn’t mean construction companies shouldn’t do whatever they can to protect their workers and keep them safe. But falls are a serious problem on construction sites, especially when a worker is working at an elevation that is ten feet high or higher. In these cases, the result of such a fall is usually death, and even falls from lower heights can result in death or serious injury. Of all the deaths that happen in the construction industry, falling is responsible for a third of them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed that in 2007 at least 442 construction workers were killed because of falls.
Why Construction Workers Fall
With so many falls happening and resulting in serious injury or death both construction worker unions and the National Institute of Occupational Safety decided to launch a campaign in April 2012 that would look at common causes of construction falls, and work to provide the proper education and equipment in order to prevent those falls from happening. The campaign message focuses primarily on seeing that contractors provide the proper equipment for the job that needs to be done, and that the contractors and workers have the right training and understanding of how to use that equipment in a way that will keep workers safe.
The bottom line is that in most cases when construction workers are killed or seriously injured from a fall it is because they did not have adequate fall protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues various workplace safety regulations for a number of industries, including construction, and they have declared fall protection thresholds that contractors have a responsibility to know and follow.
The requirements range from having proper railings in place for workers who are elevated four feet above the ground, when the height reaches six feet, a personal fall arrest system or safety net must be in place. Body belts are required even in situations where there is risk of a fall that is just a couple feet. Portable ladders are not allowed on elevated work areas, and fixed ladder between twenty and thirty feet need safety cages. As for workers at even higher heights requires that workers are connected to a steel frame in order to prevent falls.
When falls do occur it is usually because portable ladders were used incorrectly, protruding steel rebars were unguarded, scaffolds were faulty, or there were opening in a wall or floor or a side was left unprotected.
Preventing a Fall
If you work in construction, you will obviously want to try not to fall. If you notice that your site is using equipment that does not adequately provide the fall protection you need, it is important to communicate with your foreman and possibly your union about assuring that the right equipment is provided. There may be lesser protections in place, but if these fail the consequences can be dire, and it is simply not worth the risk.
Even when everything looks fine, it is important to communicate with others on the job and look out for one another. If someone else falls or is otherwise hurt be prepared to be a witness to what happened.
What to do if you are Injured or a Loved one is Killed
When a fall happens because of the lack of adequate fall protection, responsibility often lies in one of two places. Either the contractor did not provide the right protective gear or install proper safety precautions based on the nature of the job, or the manufacturer of the equipment did not properly construct that equipment in order for it to provide the level of protection that was necessary.
If the injury is the fault of the employer, it may be handled through a workman’s compensation claim. The contractor will likely have some sort of policy in place as well as insurance, but it is still important to either contact a personal injury lawyer yourself or have someone take that step for you if you are unable to do so.
If it is determined that the equipment used was supposed to provide adequate fall protection, but it was not built correctly, then a third party claim against the manufacturer may be necessary in order to receive whatever compensation is due.
Regardless of what the cause seems to be in the moment, it is likely that a full investigation will need to be conducted in order to see what really happened, which is why a lawyer need to get involved right away. Others may tell you that they will handle things after an accident, but if it is you or someone close to you that has been hurt or killed its best to contact a personal injury or wrongful death attorney yourself.