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Scaffold Injuries and Safety Precautions

Reports attribute over 40% of all fatalities in construction zones each year to falling hazards. Additionally, OSHA estimates that about 65% of all construction workers perform some work on scaffolds every year. With so many workers on scaffolding, staying safe remains important to reduce the risk of falling.

Unsafe scaffolding is a significant source of lawsuits by construction workers and their families. Many seek compensation for the death or personal injury of the worker.

One of the the key issues is if the scaffold is safe. OSHA has many different standards. To begin with, OSHA requires a “competent person” to perform many duties including,  among others,

  • selecting and direct employees who erect, dismantle, move, or alter scaffolds.
  • determining if it is safe for employees to work on or from a scaffold during storms or high winds
  • ensuring that a personal fall arrest system or wind screens protect these employees.
  • training employees, and
  • inspecting scaffolds and scaffold components for visible defects before each work shift

Capacity Requirements

Additionally to when an engineer or competent person is involved, OSHA also has capacity requirements. Each scaffold and scaffold component must support without failure its own weight. Also, it must support at least four times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it.

A qualified person must design the scaffolds. Then they must load the scaffolding in accordance with that design. No one should load in excess of the maximum intended loads or rated capacities.

Other Scaffolding Requirements

Below are a few of the most commonly-violated OSHA safety regulations on scaffolds:

  • Loose objects should not support a scaffold. Examples include barrels or loose brick.
  • All planking should overlap by at least 12 inches.
  • Planks should extend over their end supports between 6 and 18 inches.
  • Provide overhead protection when conducting work.
  • Do not allow tools, materials, and debris to accumulate on a scaffold.
  • Shore scaffolds and lean-to scaffolds are prohibited.

Liability After a Scaffolding Fall

In order to win a person injury lawsuit for harm caused by a fall from a scaffold, a worker must prove three elements:

  • that the defendant had a duty to provide for the safety of the worker
  • that the defendant breached that duty, and
  • the breach caused harm to the worker.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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