Working in construction means spending time on scaffolds. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 65 percent of construction workers, or an estimated 2.3 million workers, do their job while standing on scaffolding.
Scaffolds allow access to parts of the building high above the ground, but they also put workers at risk of becoming serious hurt in a fall. Safety precautions can reduce that risk, but accidents do happen. One study found that 72 percent of scaffold accidents at construction sites were caused by three scenarios: the planking or support collapsing, the victim slipping and the victim being hit from above by a falling object.
OSHA argues that all three of these accident types can be prevented in many cases, simply by having construction companies comply with the agency’s safety standards.
The agency has promulgated several regulations related to scaffolding use in construction, more than we have space to discuss in this blog. But as an example, OSHA generally requires that a scaffold be capable of supporting its own weight, plus at least four times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted onto it. Also, a scaffold must be designed by a qualified person, and put together in accordance with that person’s design.
Even when the builder complies with all federal and state regulations, sometimes a construction worker suffers an accident anyway. A fall or slip off of scaffolding can lead to severe injury, and it could be months before the victim is well enough to work again. During that time out of commission, workers’ compensation may be a financial lifeline.