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What is a Scaffolding Accident on a Construction Site, and How Can It Be Avoided?

Updated October 5, 2023 | By Emily Chimenti

At any construction site, workers and others present are at risk of being injured in a myriad of ways. Heavy machinery, dangerous equipment, and other hazards can cause devastating injury and death.

One common cause of injury on a job site is scaffolding. Scaffolding is the temporary structure that supports workers while constructing or repairing a building. A scaffolding accident can cause temporary injury, permanent injury, or death.

Construction scaffolding accidents, like other claims, can result from a simple oversight. However, they can impose lifelong medical, financial, and emotional consequences on the victim.

What is Construction Scaffolding?

When a construction company needs to build or repair a structure, they first create a temporary support, called scaffolding, that can hold workers, tools, and equipment. This scaffolding can be relatively short or many stories high depending on the project.

Scaffolding typically consists of interlocking metal and aluminum pipes. Although it may look precarious, scaffolding should be secure when built correctly. Unfortunately, many construction injuries still occur each year due to scaffolding accidents. Workers should follow the company’s guidelines and the manufacturer’s instructions when constructing scaffolding.

What Causes Scaffolding Accidents?

Scaffolding accidents can cause severe injury to a construction worker or innocent bystander. These injuries can have a lifelong impact on the victim’s well-being. According to OSHA, scaffolding accidents happen most often for the following reasons:

When a scaffolding accident occurs because of negligence by the construction company, the installer of the scaffolding, or the manufacturer, the victim may be eligible for compensation.

What Types of Scaffolding Injuries Are Most Common?

Scaffolding injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. Whether a worker suffered a fall from scaffolding, a slip and fall on the scaffolding, or impact from objects falling from the scaffolding, they may experience severe injury, including:

  • Head injuries, including concussion and traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Injuries to the back or neck, including whiplash
  • Lacerations, punctures, or even amputations
  • Internal bleeding or organ damage

Scaffolding deaths are less common, but they can happen. When a construction project requires heavy equipment, materials, and machinery at a great height, these objects are at risk of falling. Similarly, workers risk falling from significant heights at construction sites. But following proper safety procedures can significantly help prevent many of these severe injuries.

How Can Construction Workers Prevent Scaffolding Injuries?

Construction workers can prevent scaffolding injuries by always using scaffolding properly. They must always follow guidelines from the equipment manufacturer, adhere to OSHA regulations, and follow their company’s guidelines.

OSHA Scaffold Safety Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes extensive guidelines on constructing and using scaffolding safely. Some examples of these guidelines include the following:

  • Each platform should be able to support its own weight and four times the weight it is intended to hold.
  • Workers should construct scaffolding away from powerlines. OSHA specifies minimum distances for lines with different insulated and uninsulated voltage amounts.
  • If there is a risk of debris falling from a scaffold, workers must block off the area or install a canopy or guardrails to catch falling objects.

When companies fail to follow OSHA safety guidelines, they not only put people at risk but also open themselves up to potential penalties.

Manufacturer and Construction Company Safety Precautions

Construction companies and scaffolding manufacturers must adhere to OSHA guidelines, or they make themselves vulnerable to fines and lawsuits. In addition to these guidelines, many companies may impose their own safety regulations.

  • Scaffolding equipment manufacturers may build safety features into their products and make recommendations for when and how to use their equipment.
  • Construction companies prevent injury by educating their employees on OSHA guidelines as well as their company’s safety procedures. They may have designated safety officers on job sites and within the company to ensure workers comply with safety regulations.

When construction companies and manufacturers create and follow safety measures, they can do their part to prevent scaffolding accidents.

How Can I Receive Damages After a Scaffolding Injury?

You may be able to recover damages after a scaffolding injury by making a personal injury claim. The most common reasons to pursue this type of lawsuit include the following: the scaffolding equipment was faulty or you suffered an injury as an innocent bystander.

Faulty Equipment

The equipment manufacturer may be responsible if you’ve been working on properly-constructed scaffolding that malfunctioned. Suppose your crew assembled the scaffolding correctly and used it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and it still collapsed. The fault may lie with the manufacturer if the equipment fails despite taking appropriate safety precautions and adhering to maximum weight thresholds and other limits. In this case, you may be able to sue the manufacturer in a product liability suit.

Innocent Bystanders

Construction sites are blocked whenever possible so that the general public is not too close to construction hazards or dangerous equipment. However, sometimes this is not possible. If construction occurs in a dense urban area or a multi-use building, bystanders may be present. Pedestrians who need to walk near or under construction scaffolding may get injured if something goes wrong.

One example of this type of injury occurred in New York City in 2019. In Midtown Manhattan, a scaffold detached from an exterior wall. Several bricks came loose, falling and injuring pedestrians. In this example, the pedestrians suffered only minor injuries. However, it’s easy to imagine how this type of accident could have led to a more severe injury or even death.

If an innocent bystander suffers injuries because of a construction company’s negligence, they may be able to sue to recover damages from the construction company.

Contact a Construction Injury Lawyer at WKW

Construction injuries can be severe, and scaffolding injuries, in particular, can often involve a long, hard road to recovery. Even with treatment, you may experience painful and costly lifelong complications from your injury. If you have sustained an injury from a scaffolding accident, you may be able to seek compensation.

The best thing to do is find a lawyer knowledgeable about construction accident cases. Our attorneys have experience litigating a variety of construction cases. Contact a construction accident lawyer at WKW today for a free case evaluation.

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