Scaffolding is synonymous with New York City’s skyscape, but its risks are well known to workers who must perform their jobs from heights. According to OSHA, an estimated 2.3 million construction workers, over 65% of the construction industry, work on scaffolds, and nearly 5,000 are injured each year as a result. Scaffolds also pose considerable risks of fatal injuries caused by falls, one of OSHA’s infamous Fatal Four.
Scaffolding is dangerous but essential equipment, and can be found everywhere from small jobs to mega projects. While they pose real hazards to both workers and the public alike, there are effective ways of controlling risks, and proven means of protecting workers who use scaffolding as part of their line of work.
Scaffolding Hazards & Safety Laws
At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., our attorneys have extensive experience fighting for victims injured in construction accidents, including those involving scaffolding. Some of our results include:
- $9.9M settlement for a union laborer who fell roughly 10 feet from a rolling scaffold.
- $3M settlement for a worker who suffered back and heel injuries after falling from a scaffold being used to paint the interior of a building.
- $1.9M settlement for a union steamfitter who suffered a serious back injury in a scaffold accident;
Over our decades in practice, we’ve become intimately familiar with the laws in place to protect workers and the public from scaffolding hazards, including New York Labor Law 240, which protects the rights of workers who must perform jobs at heights, and requires employers to provide proper gear and safety equipment to reduce their risks of suffering preventable harm.
Some of the most common scaffolding-related hazards include:
Safety Tips When Working with Scaffolding
Hazards associated with construction and scaffolding work can be effectively controlled when all parties involved in a project prioritize safety on their work sites. Here are a few scaffolding safety tips everyone should keep in mind:
- Prepare and Inspect Before a Project: Prior to any job, it’s important to take time to ensure scaffolding and equipment is in sound working order, and that the location where scaffolding is to be used does not pose any hazards, such as overheard lines or obstructions, or uneven surfaces that may require additional bracing, anchors, and proper adjustment. Check guardrails, planks, and decks to ensure they’re installed properly, and be sure all braces are in place with secured locking mechanisms.
- Ensure Workers are Adequately Trained: Any worker who’ll be using scaffolding should be adequately trained on their design and operation, but the scaffolding standard has been a fixture on OSHA’s annual Top 10 list of most frequently cited violations for years. Proper training can go a long way in avoiding preventable accidents, so be sure workers have an understanding of how to safely get on and off scaffolding, avoid hazards like falls, work within load-bearing capacity, and correctly assemble and disassemble structures.
- Secure Scaffolding Properly: Even correctly erected and well-balanced scaffolding can become hazardous without proper securement; just one end or component becoming dislodged can be enough to compromise the integrity of the framework. Scaffolding securement may vary depending on the system being used, so be sure workers know how to properly secure them using locking systems, brace retention mechanisms, and other fail-safe methods.
- Install Guardrails and Check Platforms: Be sure that guardrails are installed and properly secured. Guardrails and personal fall arrest systems are required by OSHA for work on platforms 10 feet or higher. Per OSHA, working platforms must also be planked close to the guardrails, and are to be overlapped on a support at least 6 inches, but no more than 12 inches.
- Be Consistent With Regular Maintenance: Keeping scaffolding safe requires a commitment to regular maintenance and inspection. Even if equipment appeared fine and in working order on a previous project, it should always be thoroughly inspected to ensure it can be used safely. Be sure to check for any materials or obstructions that should be removed, signs of excessive wear, warping, or rust on components like braces and frames, and signs of weakness in any trusses, beams, welds, or other parts of suspended platforms. Having a competent / qualified worker familiar with safety requirements and scaffolding design perform these checks is wise, as is having policies to report anything that looks unusual or unsafe.
- Provide and Use PPE: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital for any worker on or around scaffolding. This includes headgear to guard against falling objects, gloves, non-skid footwear, and safety harnesses. Workers given safety harnesses should wear them at all times when on equipment, and be trained on how to properly use them.
These are just a few of many safety precautions that should be taken when working with scaffolding, or with any type of equipment on a work site. If you have questions about a scaffolding accident, workplace injury, and your rights, our legal team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is available to help. Contact us to speak with an attorney.