While working on scaffolding at a construction site can be reasonably safe if all of the necessary safety protocols are followed, builders and construction companies frequently put their workers in harm’s way. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), failing to follow the general requirements for scaffolding is the third-most common safety violation on construction sites, and 72% of scaffolding accidents involve issues that are preventable.
If you have been seriously injured, or if your spouse or another member of your family has been seriously injured or killed in a scaffolding accident, determining the cause of the accident will be important to maximizing your financial recovery. While Oregon’s and Washington’s workers’ compensation laws provide no-fault compensation to eligible employees, this compensation is limited, and you may be entitled to additional fault-based compensation from other sources.
10 Common Factors in Scaffolding Accidents on Construction Sites
On a construction site, there are numerous issues that can lead to scaffolding accidents. This includes accidents such as falls, partial falls (e.g., having a leg fall through the planking or being saved by a harness), and being struck by falling objects from overhead. Some of the most common causes of scaffolding accidents include:
1. Scaffolding Defects
Many scaffolding accidents result from issues with the scaffolding itself. If scaffolding was improperly designed (e.g., if it lacks necessary bracing), or if it was improperly manufactured (e.g., the steel tubing is compromised or attachment points do not line up as they should), then it may be considered “defective” under Oregon or Washington law. When a scaffolding defect causes an accident, the companies that designed, manufactured, and sold the scaffolding can all potentially be held liable.
2. Improper Scaffolding Construction
Even if scaffolding is not defective, it must still be constructed properly in order to be safe for use. Improper scaffolding construction (e.g., failure to firmly affix all attachment points, failure to install necessary bracing, and failure to install guardrails) is a common factor in scaffolding accidents on construction sites, and it can always be avoided with adequate knowledge and supervision. If you or your loved one was involved in an accident involving improper scaffolding construction, then the company that was responsible for the scaffolding’s construction may be liable.
3. Inadequate Scaffolding Maintenance (or Failure to Replace Old Scaffolding)
Scaffolding must be properly maintained in order to preserve its structural integrity. Over time, old scaffolding will need to be replaced. Inadequate maintenance can also lead to slippery surfaces and other safety hazards that can result in serious injuries.
4. Weak or Inadequate Planking
Sturdy planking is a must for ensuring worker safety on all types of scaffolding. Weak or inadequate planking on scaffolding supported by fabricated frames, posts, mast climbers, pump jacks, and other mechanisms can expose workers to fall risks that can result in severe or fatal injuries.
5. Inadequate Worker Training
Constructing scaffolding and working on scaffolding both require specific training. Workers who construct or erect scaffolding must be trained in appropriate construction methods and safety standards for the specific type of scaffolding they are erecting, and those who work on scaffolding must be trained on the specific risks involved. Inadequate training with regard to fall protection is another of the 10 most-common construction site safety violations according to OSHA.
6. Inadequate Access to Safety Equipment
Even when scaffolding is designed, manufactured, and constructed properly, workers must still be provided with access to appropriate safety equipment. Sadly, lack of access to safety equipment – which can easily be avoided – is a leading cause of preventable injuries and deaths on construction sites. When construction workers are forced to work on scaffolding without adequate fall protection, they can face extreme risks due to many factors that are beyond their control.
7. Failure to Protect Workers from Falling Objects
In addition to protecting workers from falls, builders and construction companies must also protect workers against injuries from objects that fall from overhead. When necessary, scaffolding should be covered to ensure that workers are not injured by falling tools, construction materials, or debris.
8. Working with Untrained, Inexperienced, or Negligent Coworkers
On a construction site, working alongside individuals who are untrained or inexperienced, or who do not take the safety risks of their jobs seriously, can be extremely dangerous. When working on scaffolding in particular, coworkers’ mistakes can have extreme consequences. If you or a member of your family was involved in an accident caused by another worker’s negligence, then that worker’s employer may be fully liable for your accident-related losses.
9. Working in Hazardous Conditions
When working at heights on the outside of a partially-constructed building, shifts in the weather can also be extremely dangerous. Not only can rain and snow make planking slippery, but significant changes in temperature can compromise attachment points and potentially lead to loosening, cracks, and failures.
10. Builders and Construction Companies Ignoring Other Scaffolding Safety Standards
From overloading scaffolding to placing scaffolding too close to hazardous energy sources, numerous other issues can lead to serious and fatal accidents as well. OSHA has established comprehensive safety standards for scaffolding, and builders, construction companies, and other contractors and subcontractors must all ensure that they comply fully with all applicable safety requirements.
What Should You Do after a Scaffolding Accident?
Following a scaffolding accident on a construction site, it is important to learn about your legal rights, and it is also important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. At D’Amore Law Group, we represent injured construction workers and families in workers’ compensation, personal injury, and wrongful death claims throughout Oregon and Washington. If you are entitled to financial compensation for a scaffolding accident, we can help you, and we encourage you to contact us right away for a free consultation.
Speak with a Construction Accident Legal Team in Oregon or Washington for Free
If you would like to speak with a trusted construction accident lawyer at D’Amore Law Group, please call us directly or contact us online. Your initial consultation is free and confidential, and you pay nothing unless we win.