Driving around Houston, like in any vibrant city, you will see an unlimited number of projects using scaffolding – a sign of a booming construction industry, but also one of the top causes of accidents and injuries in the workplace. Using scaffolding to complete construction work can lull you into a false sense of security, as it feels much safer than using high and unsecured ladders or having to stretch your body naturally. Unfortunately, when scaffolding accidents do occur, the injuries are rarely minor. It’s unlikely that you’ll walk away with just a scrape or a bruise. Working at heights needs to be taken seriously as the consequences of a mistake will be severe. The good news is that the vast majority of construction accidents involving scaffolding are easily preventable. Below we share the most common causes of scaffolding accidents so that you can stay alert. We also share what your first steps need to be if you are injured in a workplace accident.
Workplace Accidents Caused by The Scaffolding Itself
The first way an employer can prevent scaffolding accidents is by making good decisions before the equipment ever gets near a construction site. Not all scaffolding is designed equally. Scaffolding will be designed slightly differently depending on what it is intended to be used for, and where it will be used. Accidents can occur if a certain type of scaffolding purports to be usable for a particular load weight or ground conditions but it cannot be.
Construction sites should carry out all the necessary checks before placing any orders to ensure scaffolding – like all other job site equipment and materials – will be safe for use. Furthermore, even the safest designs can become dangerous if improper materials are used during manufacturing. Trying to save money by using cheap materials is unsafe. The materials used to build scaffolding should be tested before workers begin using them. In addition, when it eventually arrives at the construction site, the scaffolding needs to be safely constructed.
The most common scaffolding accidents are caused by the attachment points not being fully fastened, lack of bracing, and lack of guardrails. Cutting corners in order to save time and money is never worth it when working at heights – but construction companies often want to get to work quickly and prioritize expediting setup over ensuring worker safety.
Finally, keep in mind that scaffolding needs regular maintenance to keep its users safe. Everyday wear and tear can affect the material’s strength and adequacy. A large number of scaffolding accidents are caused by the planking or support falling away. Regular inspections checking for damage and aging will ensure that issues are caught early and hopefully help prevent catastrophic and traumatizing scaffolding accidents.
Lack Of Training Causes Scaffolding Accidents
As we outlined above, there are many steps that need to be followed before scaffolding can be deemed to be safe to use on a construction site. To keep everyone safe and prevent accidents, in-depth training should be provided in relation to all of them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal standards in relation to how scaffolding should be set up and how it should be used. The worksite manager and/or employer must ensure that everyone on the job site has appropriate training on these standards; however, training should not just be something that is done once at the start of a project and then forgotten about. If supervisors observe problematic behavior, or really anything which doesn’t comply with the applicable safety standards, no matter how small, it should be addressed straight away. If employers aren’t proactive in training all of their workers, they can be held liable for resulting injuries in a personal injury case.
Severe Weather Conditions and Scaffolding Accidents
Those in charge of a construction project must make sure to take note of the weather conditions so that they know when it may become too unsafe to keep working. Rain can cause even the most robust scaffolding to become unsafe. Many workplace accidents are caused by trying to ‘power through’ the day to complete a job despite the weather conditions making it unsafe to do so.
Another aspect of weather to be considered by those in charge of a construction site is whether there has been bad weather when the crew was away from work, such as over the weekend or during an extended holiday. Even if the weather seems to have cleared up, the scaffolding should still be checked to ensure no damage was caused.
Scaffolding planks are often made from wood or metal and are well known for becoming slippery if it has been cold and icy overnight. If construction workers are asked to continue to work in unsafe conditions, the employer could be at fault if an accident were to occur.
Incorrect Equipment or Processes
Injuries can also be prevented if an employer puts effective workplace safety processes in place. Following OSHA guidelines concerning tying and securing tools and other objects on the scaffolding can prevent serious injuries, not just to those using the scaffolding but also to everyone below.
In addition, all employees should be provided with the correct safety gear. Hard hats should be required for everyone – those on the ground and those working up on the scaffolding. Fall prevention gear should be provided for everyone working at a height. This includes safety rails – not forgetting to close in the width as well as covering the length. Employees should also be provided with harnesses, lanyards, and other relevant fall protection accessories.
Most construction projects operate on a tight timeframe and the builder and the others in charge are eager to get a job finished; therefore, it can be tempting to want to avoid taking the time to establish proper procedures and processes as well as distribute the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). However, a serious scaffolding accident will slow a project down more than any of the safety steps we have mentioned so far. As such, it is also important to regularly inspect all safety equipment to ensure it remains in proper working condition.
What Steps to Take After a Scaffolding Accident
If you are injured in a scaffolding accident, there are two things that you need to take care of once you have sought medical attention and ensured you are safe and stable. The first is to report the accident to your employer who will likely have you complete an incident report. Secondly, you should consult a workplace injury attorney in Houston to explain your legal rights. Once hired, that lawyer can collect all relevant evidence and interview witnesses while their memories are still fresh. When you work with a personal injury attorney, you can focus on what’s important – recovering with no anxiety about how you will cover the costs associated with your on-the-job accident.
The Houston construction accident lawyers at Adame Garza LLP have years of experience analyzing their clients’ circumstances to determine what will work best in any situation. Contact us today for a free consultation in English or Spanish.