According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 60 percent of all construction workers regularly perform their jobs on top of temporary structures, and a scaffolding accident can cause great harm. Temporary structures are found at nearly every construction site in the U.S. and are essential to erecting large buildings. However, given the rapid nature of modern construction, temporary structures are built, set up, and moved at a pace that often makes safe practices difficult. This problem is exacerbated by the fragmented nature of construction site leadership, where engineers, independent contractors, laborers, drivers, and managers all have to work in lockstep to keep the area safe. Given the staggering rate of construction site injuries, though, this is an ongoing problem that continues to plague the industry.
OSHA, states, and some private organizations have all published safety standards regarding temporary structures, and they are strict. In most injury cases, it is OSHA’s standards that will prevail, as they are the accepted standards throughout the construction industry. Over the years, OSHA has added to its safety standards, and the current iteration of their practices covers nearly every part of the building, set up, and moving process. However, there are several OSHA standards that are frequently violated, some of which include:
- Lack of platform strength. A temporary structure must be able to support four times its expected weight load.
- Lack of platform stability. A temporary structure is never to be supported by loose items, like boxes or barrels.
- Poor platform planking. Planks that link platforms together must overlap each other by at least one foot.
- A platform that is too narrow. Elevated platforms must have planking that extends at least 6 inches on either side of the platform edge, and frequently must be wider than that.
- Lack of overhead protection. Dropped tools and debris are common workplace hazards, and temporary structures must be built to avoid them.
- Too much clutter on the platform. Loose tools, building materials, and debris must be removed from the platform as soon as possible to avoid a tripping hazard.
- Use of an unsafe structure design. Both lean-to and shore structures are prohibited on construction sites.
Falls are by far the most common cause of worker injuries and fatalities in the construction industry, and these violations are some of the reasons why.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE WHEN A SCAFFOLDING ACCIDENT OCCURS?
Who owns liability depends on how the incident occurs and who is responsible for managing the site. For example, if poor platform strength or stability is the cause of the incident, then the people or company responsible for building it will likely be at fault. If the incident is due to a careless driver bumping into the structure, they will be at fault. At some construction sites, managers and safety personnel may also be in charge of monitoring temporary structures for their safety. Regardless of who manages the structure, if a worker is hurt on it, they should consider speaking to an injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss how to navigate the complicated legal process regarding workplace incidents.