A scaffolding accident is a common cause of construction worker injury. 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 and causing injury to the workers and innocent people below.
Scaffolds are found in different construction settings. Whether a private home or a high-rise building, safety measures must be in place to protect employees and the public. If you’ve been injured by a scaffolding accident, never assume it is your fault.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2017, there were 194,300 nonfatal injuries in the construction industry, and an additional 971 fatalities. BLS reports that on average, about 14 percent of fatal falls in the construction industry are due to scaffolds failing. Most injuries involved in scaffold accidents are caused by either the planking or support giving way.
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.
Scaffolding Accident Scenarios
Different laws apply if:
- You are an employee of the company that made or installed the scaffolding, or
- You were injured while working on the scaffolding but are not employed by the scaffolding company, or
- 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, 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. 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 may be less than 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, 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, if you were an innocent third person who was injured when standing, walking, or driving by scaffolding that collapsed due to improper erection or maintenance, you may have a lawsuit against the company (or companies) responsible for the scaffolding.
When innocent bystanders are injured by defective scaffolding, they may have the right to sue several entities, including the architect, engineers, scaffolding company, supplier, or job-site supervisor. The owner or lessor of the land where the scaffold was located may also be liable for the injuries or death.
A Scaffolding Accident Can Happen for Many Reasons
- The planking or support of the scaffolding gives way
- The scaffolding was negligently designed
- The scaffolding was improperly installed
- The scaffolding was not maintained properly
- The scaffolding was not inspected regularly
- The scaffolding was used improperly, such as overloading it
- The scaffolding was moved from its original position and not secured properly at its new site
- Metal from the scaffolding came into contact with a live power line, resulting in the electrocution of persons who touched it
- Objects such as heavy tools fell off the scaffolding, hitting a passer-by and causing severe injuries
OSHA (the 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 must inspect the scaffold for any visible defects before work begins on each 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.
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.
Your Right to Compensation
Some of the questions that will affect your right to sue the party at fault include:
- Who oversaw the scaffolding design?
- Who erected the scaffolding, and was it done properly?
- Was the scaffolding properly maintained?
- Was the scaffolding inspected before each shift to ensure it was safe?
- Were there defects in the scaffolding components that caused it to collapse?
- Were proper guardrails or safety features in place?
- Was the injured or killed person an innocent bystander or did he or she work on the construction project?
- Who did the injured or deceased person work for?
If You Are a Construction Worker
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:
- Was this the first time you were on the scaffold?
- Were you injured by the scaffold falling?
- Did something fall off the scaffold?
If You Were Injured While Walking by a Construction Site
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:
- Immediately seek medical attention for your injuries.
- Do not give or make any statements without first speaking with an experienced attorney.
- Speak to an attorney early on to avoid problems later.
- Gather as much information as possible such as: the date, time, exact location, weather conditions, and witnesses.
Free Legal Consultation
If you have been injured or a loved one was killed due to a scaffolding collapse or other scaffolding accident, contact an attorney experienced in this type of law as soon as possible. The attorney can send an investigator to document and preserve evidence, such as taking photographs before the accident scene has been altered and interviewing witnesses while memories are still fresh.
Don’t jeopardize your legal rights. Call TorkLaw for a free consultation about your case – 888.845.9696.