For over 50 years, The Beasley Firm has fought to ensure workers injured or killed by negligence on-the-job at construction sites received full and fair compensation for the physical, emotional and financial injuries they suffered. Our clients have been awarded over $2 billion in compensation through hundreds of multi-million-dollar settlements and jury verdicts.
Despite detailed OSHA regulations and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) guidelines relating to fall prevention, falls are the #1 cause of work-related construction deaths. Most falls are preventable and thus inexcusable. At any given time, there are a number of fall risk and prevention awareness campaigns, such as OSHA’s longstanding fall prevention campaign (and web resources), the NIOSH’s own campaign, and the Center for Construction Research and Training’s 2012 campaign (with its tragic interactive map of fall accidents), and yet construction falls remain commonplace, largely because of lax attitudes about fall prevention measures for work that isn’t at the top of a skyscraper.
All Construction Workers Are Entitled To Fall Protection Measures
Most ladder deaths involve falls of 10 feet or less. In our experience, many construction companies don’t understand or don’t care that the strict OSHA requirements regarding proactive fall prevention like harnesses and guardrails start at six feet, not ten, or twenty, or thirty, or anything higher, and they apply in virtually all work areas, not just at the top of a tall building, or a crane, or a telecommunications tower. A six foot fall can kill or cripple — most ladder deaths involve falls of 10 feet or less. Workers are entitled to the same protections at six feet as they would get at sixty feet or six-hundred feet.
According to OSHA, the three most common fall prevention violations are:
- Failure to protect workers from falls of 6 feet of more off unprotected sides or edges, e.g. floors and roofs.
- Failure to protect workers from falling into or through holes and openings in floors and walls.
- Failure to provide guardrails on runways and ramps where workers are exposed to falls of 6 feet or more to a lower level.
In many of these circumstances, the risk — and thus the injury — could have been avoided if the company had moved more work to ground level, if guardrails had been installed, or if the company had mandated a fall arrest system, like a body harness. The most effective tool for preventing falls, however, are someone else’s eyes: a construction worker on the job is trying to get the job done. It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure the safe workplace, and often there’s no better method than to simply assign someone to do no work and instead just keep a watch out for unsafe situations. That’s what OSHA recommends and that’s what works, but it requires paying someone extra — something many companies want to avoid doing.
Scaffold Collapses And Falls Are All Preventable
Next to hammers and hard hats, the most ubiquitous feature of construction sites is typically the scaffolding. The OSHA regulations for scaffolds are so specific that even a lawyer could build a safe scaffold — and there’s no shortage of scaffold safety resources — and yet, every day, construction workers spend most of their day on unsafe and improperly built scaffolds. In our experience, scaffold fall injuries are generally caused by three causes:
- The scaffold was erected by workers without any training, and is never inspected by a competent person.
- The scaffold has incomplete railings, toe guards, and floor boards.
- Equipment and debris on higher levels is not adequately secured or immediately removed, and so falls onto a person below.
Aerial Lifts And Scissor Lifts Can Be Safer Than Scaffolds, If Designed And Used Properly
OSHA and safety consultants frequently recommend the use of aerial lifts instead of scaffolds, but “less dangerous” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe.” As the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights explains, “About 26 construction workers die each year from using aerial lifts. More than half of the deaths involve boom-supported lifts, such as bucket trucks and cherry pickers; most of the other deaths involve scissor lifts. Electrocutions, falls, and tipovers cause most of the deaths.”
In our experience, most aerial lift accidents are a result of inadequate training. OSHA requires that a qualified person — that is, someone who “ by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project” — train every user of a given aerial lift. Yet, many construction companies rent their lifts rather than own them, and those companies rely far too heavily on “on-the-job” experience, so that the actual users of the aerial lifts don’t know anything more about the lift than if they had just walked onto the construction site. That lack of appropriate training creates a number of dangerous situations, like using or moving the lift on an unlevel surface or failing to wear a harness, some of which turn into catastrophic accidents.
Ladders and Falling Debris Are Common Problems
Everyone “knows” how to use a ladder and “understands” that they have to remove all debris from any location as soon as possible. Problem is, when workers and supervisors are focusing on a job, they’re not always focusing on safety, and so they end up compromising safety in the name of speed. Even if the accident was caused a worker taking a shortcut, like putting a ladder on a scaffold or leaving debris on a higher level while completing other work for the day, it’s still the employer’s duty to properly train and supervisor every worker.
Experience, Resources, and Results
For over fifty years, we’ve set the standard for attorneys representing injured persons and their families in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. If you or a family member has been injured in a construction accident, let us put our firm to work for you.