Tennessee Construction Injury Law: Scaffolding Accidents
Construction workers are entitled to working in a safe environment when on the job at construction sites. Unfortunately, all too many workers are not provided with the appropriate safety equipment and training needed to ensure a safe workplace. On a daily basis across the US, construction workers carry out construction on sites using steel or wooden scaffolding. The Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has reported that more than 4,000 construction workers are injured and more than 50 are killed because of scaffolding accidents every year.
At InjuryTN, our experienced construction injury attorneys know that such scaffolding accidents are for the most part entirely preventable.
Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents
Scaffolding is a non-permanent workspace raised to a height where construction on the upper stories of a building can be conducted. These essential structures need to be carefully constructed and routinely maintained and inspected, as well as properly disassembled in order to maintain a safe working environment. Numerous different professions and industries employ the use of scaffolding, some of these professions will often include window and building washers, carpenters, brick layers, and painters among others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of all scaffolding accidents were attributed to some of the following:
- Planks give way ( usually this is caused by overloading the scaffolding)
- Worker slip-and-falls from heights
- Workers struck by flying or falling objects
- Scaffolding collapses (often caused instability from overloading)
- Electrical shock, and even electrocution
Injuries caused by scaffolding accidents will vary based on the circumstances of the accident. However, the possibility of injury may involve some of the following:
- Back injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
- Head Injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Substantial research on the safety of these structures has enabled the development of a deeper understanding as to what is necessary for the prevention of scaffolding accidents, but year after year, scaffolding collapses continue to injury and even kill construction workers and others.
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Scaffolding Accident Prevention
Preventing scaffolding accidents from ever occurring will require strict adherence to OSHA regulations established for the construction as well as routine inspection of scaffolding and similar structures, particularly that constant supervision is maintained by a “competent person” throughout all phases of the project. It will also be necessary for workers to pay careful attention to dangerous areas.
Scaffoldings always have the potential to collapse if it’s framework is unstable. This may occur due to any number of different causes. Employers should always ensure scaffolding is constructed according to OSHA ‘s specifications to make sure it is both strong enough to support four times its stated load as well as structurally sound. There should also be an appropriate restriction of access to and from the structure as well as between walkways and ramps. This also means that the structure should be completely and correctly planked, including sizable overlap of planks in addition to confined gaps between planks which are not overlapping. Additionally, structures may not exceed four times the minimum dimensions of the base.
Electrocution on Scaffolding
Those working on scaffolds may occasionally be within dangerous proximity to power lines overhead. Neither the scaffolds themselves nor any conductive equipment used on them should come within 10 feet of overhead or underground power lines. The only exemption to such restrictions would be when an adequately insulated power line which carries no more than 300 volts is within the work area’s radius. Such cases may necessitate a working proximity of as little as 3 feet. However, in instances where the status of a power line’s voltage or insulation is not known, the aforementioned rule of 10 feet should be followed.
Falling from a scaffolding can happen to workers any time they are traversing a scaffold, working on improperly guarded or completely unguarded scaffolds, or if scaffold planks or entire platforms fall. What precautions are necessary for the circumstance will be determined by what type of scaffolding was being used as well as what work was being done. However, generally, the use of guard railing in addition to personal fall protection systems may help in preventing sever injuries from occurring. The law necessitates the minimum use of one of these systems, if not both.
Personal fall protection systems should strictly abide by all OSHA regulations and standards, as established in CFR1926.502(b). This subsection also requires that the personal fall protection systems to have a lanyard attached a vertical or horizontal lifeline or a structural member of the scaffold.
All guardrails should be constructed along every side, end, or opening. There are some more specific regulations which have been established for the installation of guard railing along numerous edges and sides of a scaffold.
Scaffolding Injuries from Falling Objects
Often construction work will involve the tasks being completed across multiple levels, so the danger of workers being struck by flying or falling objects should always be a substantial concern, particularly for those working on temporary scaffolds or other structures. Additionally, workers should be cautious so as not to drop objects while completing work from such heights.
The prevention of struck-by accidents and injuries will require supplying workers with appropriate personal protective equipment, blockading the space underneath the scaffold to prohibit entry, employing the use of screens and panels when the height of stacked materials exceed that of the toe bar, and utilizing canopies as well as safety netting beneath the scaffolding which can deflect or catch falling or flying objects.
Determining Liability in Scaffolding Accidents
Ultimately, the responsibility of ensuring all workers on a job site are properly trained in scaffold working techniques rests solely on the employer or supervisor of the site. Even when those working on or around scaffolds have been trained, a site supervisor or employer should offer retraining at any point where there are imperfections or deficiencies observed on site or if alterations to work design plans necessitate it.
Taking shortcuts when it comes to proper training on the construction and routine inspection of scaffolds can increase the risk of workplace injury. The accomplished team of personal injury attorneys at InjuryTN is here to help construction workers take into consideration all options when it comes to restitution for their injuries.
Contact InjuryTN today to set up your free initial case evaluation with an experienced Tennessee construction accident lawyer to discuss how we can start protecting your rights. All personal injury cases are taken on a contingency basis, so you pay no costs or fees unless we win the case.