By Andrew R. Bronsnick
Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 370 of the 991 construction fatalities in
2016 were caused by falls from elevation. All of these deaths are preventable.
In 2018, the top five OSHA violations remained unchanged for the fourth straight year:
- Fall Protection
- Hazard Communication
- Respiratory Protection
Today we focus on #3: Scaffolding.
There were 3,336 scaffolding violations in the U.S. this year. Construction workers are most at risk for fatal falls from height – more than seven times the rate of other industries – but they can happen anywhere. Though scaffolding is common and necessary for many work sites, federal law requires that it must always be professionally installed and secured to assure every user’s safety.
A majority of injured workers attributed the accidents to the planking or support giving way, a slip-and-fall, or being struck by a falling object. With the continuous construction and demolition projects taking place in New Jersey, workers face a high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries year-round.
OSHA’s scaffolding standards are available to the general construction industry. The final rule has been updated to address types of scaffolds – such as catenary scaffolds, step and trestle ladder scaffolds, and multi-level suspended scaffolds. Additionally, the final rule allows employers greater flexibility in the use of fall protection systems to protect employees working on scaffolds and extends fall protection to erectors and dismantlers of scaffolds to the extent feasible. Below are some tips for workers when considering scaffolding installation and use:
Be sure the installer is qualified. A qualified installer can design and load scaffolds in accordance with the specific design and can train employees working on scaffolds to recognize the associated hazards and suggest ways to minimize them.
Seek proper training. All employees must be trained in safe scaffolding use and be able to spot potential dangers and their causes. If a safety training course is available, enroll.
Know the capacity requirements. Scaffolding and its components must not be loaded in excess of their maximum intended loads or rated capacity, whichever is less.
Secure the walkway space. Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches wide. In cases where that is not possible, guardrails and/or a personal fall arrest system must be used.
Use proper judgment. In anticipation of high winds and inclement weather [link to blog #7], check for weather advisories before working on elevated platforms.
Improper scaffolding use or installation can create a dangerous environment. Following these safety tips and consulting the many free online safety resources (including from the National Safety Council, OSHA and the Department of Labor) may help save you from becoming another construction injury statistic. If you feel the scaffolding on your work site was improperly installed or is dangerous, tell your supervisor immediately.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a scaffolding or construction accident in New Jersey, you need an experienced lawyer to present your injuries during insurance matters and workers’ compensation board hearings. This will better ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.