Some 2.3 million construction workers work on scaffolding frequently. Scaffolding is a temporary platform constructed for reaching heights above arm’s length for the purpose of building construction, maintenance, and repair. Scaffolding is generally made of lumber and steel and can range from simple to complex in its design, depending on its use and purpose. Millions of construction workers, painters, and building maintenance crews work on scaffolding every day and put their lives in jeopardy from the possibility of the scaffolding collapsing or otherwise failing and causing injury to the workers and innocent people below.
Scaffolds are found in many different settings. Whether a private home or a high rise building, there are safety measures that must be taken to protect employees and the general public. Never assume that if you’ve been injured by or on a scaffold that it is YOUR fault.
Of the 500,000 injuries that occur in the construction industry each year, 10,000 are related to scaffolds. It is estimated that of the 900 occupational fatalities occurring each year, about 80 are associated with work on scaffolds. Most of the injuries involved in scaffold accidents were caused by either the planking or support giving way, or to the worker slipping or being struck by a falling object. Plank slippage is the most common cause of serious scaffolding accidents.
Falls from scaffolding are a leading cause of serious injuries in the construction trades. Scaffolds are usually set up by another contractor, so a worker’s employer may not have any control over how well the scaffold has been erected. Additionally, scaffolding is often moved or modified as conditions on the worksite change. Each move or modification must be done carefully and appropriately for the continued safety of workers who may be several stories high as they do their work.
Different laws apply (1) if you are an employee of the company that made or installed the scaffolding, (2) if you were injured while working on the scaffolding but are not employed by the scaffolding company, or (3) if you are an innocent passer-by who is hurt by the scaffolding.
In the first situation, if you are employed by the company that made, supplied, and erected the dangerous scaffold, and are injured in the process of constructing, inspecting, maintaining, or dismantling the scaffolding, then your rights are largely determined by the laws of worker’s compensation. Worker’s compensation provides benefits to the injured worker regardless of who was at fault. Indeed, the injured worker is entitled to worker’s compensation benefits even if the injuries were due to his or her own carelessness (“negligence”). The trade-off is that the amount of benefits the worker receives under worker’s compensation is considerably less than they would be if he or she were able to sue the company for negligence.
In the second situation, if you work for another company, subcontractor, or are self-employed, and are using the scaffolding while doing your work, then you may be able to bring a lawsuit for your injuries against the manufacturer, erector, inspector, or other party involved in the construction, maintenance, inspection, or dismantling of the scaffolding.
In the third situation, innocent third persons who were standing, walking, or driving by the scaffolding and were killed or injured when the scaffolding collapsed due to improper erection or maintenance, may have a lawsuit against the construction company and the company responsible for the erection, maintenance, and inspection of the scaffolding. For instance, in one case a three-ton scaffold collapsed from a building, killing both construction workers that were standing on it, as well as a young doctor who was driving down the adjacent road.
When an innocent person has been injured by defective scaffolding, there may be the right to sue a number of entities. Some of the persons or entities that may be held legally responsible (“liable”) for the injuries to someone hurt in a scaffold-related accident include the architect, engineers, scaffolding company, supplier, or job-site supervisor. The owner or lessor of the land on which the scaffold was located may also be liable for the injuries or death.
Cal-OSHA (the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has specific regulations dealing with construction, inspection and use of the scaffolding equipment. To comply with the inspection requirements, a competent person is required to inspect the scaffold for any visible defects before work begins on each and every shift where it will be used. Protective equipment like body belts, harnesses, drop-lines, lanyards, and points of anchorage must also be inspected before beginning work.
Cal-OSHA requires that every scaffold (and every individual scaffold component) be able to support at least four times its maximum load capacity without failing. On suspended scaffolds each suspension rope must be able to support at least six times the maximum load capacity without falling.
If you have been injured while at work on or by a scaffold, you should seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. It is important that you also note who was there (witnesses) the condition of the scaffold and what (if anything) appeared abnormal. Questions that are critical to a successful case will include:
If you were walking by a construction site and you’ve been injured by a falling object, whether off a scaffold or otherwise you should:
The Torkzadeh Law Firm will provide you with a free, no obligation, confidential consultation today
If you have been injured or a loved one killed due to a scaffolding collapse or other scaffolding accident, you should contact an attorney experienced in this type of law as soon as possible. The attorney will want to send his or her investigator to the scene of the accident as soon as possible to take pictures of the scene before it has been cleaned up or altered in any way. The investigator will also want to interview witnesses to the accident while memories are still fresh. It is very important to your case, that evidence be preserved and well documented. Don’t jeopardize your legal rights. Call now and talk to a lawyer about your case for a free consultation – (888) 845-9696.