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What Are the Top Causes of Scaffold Falls at Work Sites?

July 3, 2023

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According to USA Today, construction workers and laborers work in the top 25 most dangerous jobs in America. People who work in construction face many hazards that can lead to serious injuries, including dropped tools, dangerous heavy machinery and vehicles, and repetitive and strenuous manual labor.

However, the biggest risk construction workers face is falling from heights. Whether they’re building homes, offices, or other types of buildings, construction workers are often required to work on scaffolds that may be dozens of feet in the air or more. When construction workers fall off of scaffolds, they can suffer devastating and even fatal injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that construction companies employ multiple safeguards to keep their workers safe on scaffolds, but that doesn’t always happen. When construction workers aren’t protected by their employers, they can be seriously injured.

Here are some of the top causes of scaffold falls at work sites in Ohio.

Scaffold Failures and Collapses

In order for workers to be considered safe enough to work on a scaffold, the scaffold itself must be well-constructed, sturdy, and securely connected to the building they’re working on.

Unfortunately, scaffolds aren’t always safe for workers. OSHA has many regulations and requirements for building a scaffold, but these guidelines aren’t always followed—and that can lead to sudden failures or collapses.

For example, a scaffold can fail or collapse when it is:

  • Overloaded
  • Not built to OSHA’s specifications
  • Built using non-standard or approved materials
  • Not properly supported using legs, beams, brackets, poles, frames, or other types of rigid support

Using Prohibited Scaffolds

OSHA prohibits the use of:

  • Shore scaffolds—This is when a supported scaffold is placed against a building or structure and held in place with props.
  • Lean-to scaffolds—A lean-to scaffold leans toward and against a building like a ladder and isn’t secured or supported.
  • Narrow scaffolds—All platforms and walkways on a scaffold must be at least 18 inches wide.

OSHA also prohibits workers from working on a scaffold that contains snow, ice, or other slippery materials unless they’re working there to remove those substances. Only after those substances are cleared can a scaffold be used for construction and other work-related purposes.

Failure to Provide Fall Protection

Safety harnesses, lines, nets, stair railings, and handrails must be provided anytime workers are on a scaffold that’s 10 feet or more above the ground, including when they are erecting or dismantling it. These also must be provided when they’re working on a scaffold that’s located over dangerous equipment and machinery regardless of height.

Failure to Train Workers to Safely Use Scaffolds

Working on a scaffold isn’t something workers can do safely or effectively without training. OSHA requires that all employees who work on a scaffold be trained by qualified personnel to “recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and how to control or minimize those hazards.”

That includes knowing:

  • Fall hazards
  • Falling object hazards
  • Electrical hazards
  • How to properly use a scaffold
  • How to safely handle materials on a scaffold

Ideally, workers should be trained on low-rise scaffolds before they’re assigned to work on high-rise scaffolds.

Ladder, Lift, or Elevator Failure

In order to access a scaffold, workers must climb ladders, use aerial lifts, or ride temporary elevators to their work zones. Unfortunately, all three can fail, resulting in serious or even fatal fall injuries for the workers who are using them at the time. These access points must be secure, properly installed, and well maintained to keep workers safe as they travel up and down a scaffold throughout the day.

Unstable Mobile Scaffolds

Mobile scaffolds are designed to be easily moved into place and are ideal for jobs where more mobility and storage are needed compared to ladders, such as painting and plastering. The biggest risks workers face on mobile scaffolds are:

  • Movement due to a failure to lock the wheels before climbing onto the scaffold
  • Movement due to the scaffold being placed on an uneven or sloped surface
  • Not being warned or properly secured before a scaffold is moved

Failure to Inspect Scaffolds

Scaffolds should be inspected regularly, especially on long building projects or projects that were paused and then resumed weeks or months later. Over time, scaffolds can become less secured to structures, and new hazards and dangers may arise. When these issues are noticed, they must be addressed right away by repairing the broken parts or rebuilding the scaffold.

Contact Our Ohio Workers’ Compensation Lawyers after a Scaffold Accident

Even when scaffolds are perfectly built and secure according to OSHA’s regulations, workers still face risks using them. Unfortunately, many scaffolds have at least one area where they could be made safer for workers—and some are flat-out dangerous for everyone who uses them due to poor construction or negligent safety practices.

If you were injured in a scaffolding accident, you may be owed workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys know how painful and disabling falls from scaffolds are, and we want to help you get the benefits you’re owed. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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