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Construction Fall Accidents: An In-Depth Look at Negligence in Construction Sites Part 1

Construction fall accidents are the result of negligence on job sites. Workers perform tasks at towering elevations amid safety violations. With large companies behind construction sites, proving negligence can be difficult. A lawyer experienced in handling construction fall accidents is what you need to seek justice and compensation.

Construction Fall Accidents Can Be Prevented

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains that construction fall accidents are preventable. The agency aims to raise safety awareness through its Fall Prevention Campaign. According to OSHA, you should remember these steps to prevent falls:

  1. PLAN – OSHA instructs employers to “plan ahead to get the job done safely.” Job costs must include the necessary protective tools and equipment. During the planning stage, employers should identify all potential hazards. They must prepare the safety gear beforehand.
  2. PROVIDE – Elevations of 6 feet and above put workers at risk of construction fall accidents. To prevent fatal injuries, employers should equip their workers with protection. This ranges from the right equipment to protective gear. Workers should wear personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). It must consist of anchorage devices, body support, and connector systems.
  3. TRAIN – It is not enough to just supply all the needed protective gear. To ensure that the job is done safely and correctly, employers must train everyone involved. Workers should know how to use the equipment and recognize fall hazards.

Were you provided with the safety gear needed for your line of work? If you were injured due to a lack of proper protection, our helpful attorneys can assist you.

How to Keep Safe from Fall Accidents

Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for their workers. By following the requirements set by OSHA, employers can prevent construction fall accidents. Below are some of the guidelines which should be enforced at job sites:

Roofing:

  • Fall protection must meet industry standards.
  • Always use ladders.
  • Trusses must have brace or sheathing connections to increase stability.
  • A competent person should act as a safety monitor during installation.
  • Add warning lines such as barricade ribbon or chalk markings.

Ladders:

  • Do not load ladders beyond their maximum load capacity.
  • Use ladders only for their intended purpose.
  • No one should use the top of the stepladder.
  • Use fall protection when using a portable stepladder on high surfaces.
  • While lifting heavy loads and while climbing on a ladder, use a hoisting wheel.

Scaffolds:

  • Each scaffold and its components should be capable of supporting 4 times its maximum load.
  • Counterweights and connections should have 4 times more resistance capacity against tipping.
  • Suspension ropes should have at least 6 times more strength than their intended load limit.
  • Platforms must have side brackets and guardrail supports.
  • Do not use unstable objects to support platform units.
  • Securely fasten all beams together.
  • Scaffolds should be made of steel, wrought iron, or materials of equal strength.

Do you recognize one or more of the factors mentioned above? If your employer failed to comply with these regulations, then there is negligence. You must seek the help of a lawyer experienced in handling construction fall accidents.

The Fatal Truth About Construction Fall Accidents

Despite all the guidelines set by OSHA, the fatal truth remains. Construction fall accidents continue to claim the lives of workers annually. With all those technological advancements in tools and safety equipment, hazards still exist.

Proof of this is the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to its records, more than 300 workers suffer fatal injuries due to falls every year. Deaths from construction fall accidents account for 33% of all fatalities in this industry.

Furthermore, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) lists the areas where fatal falls occur:

  • High ladder falls (over 25ft) = 12%
  • Short ladder falls (10ft or less) = 27%
  • Scaffold falls = 33%
  • Roof falls = 39%

To sum it up, among all the OSHA regulations, fall protection has the most violations.

How a Construction Accident Attorney Can Help You 

You may be entitled to more than just worker’s compensation. Due to the unique circumstances of construction fall accidents, hiring a lawyer will be your best option.

As an example, here is one of the cases we handled involving a fatal fall from a construction site:

Ironworker Dies from a Roadway Construction Project

While working for a subcontractor on a roadway project, an ironworker fell from a wooden box deck. The wooden deck is 12ft tall and will serve as a concrete form. His task was to measure the area where his team would later place steel reinforcements. While walking towards the edge of the wooden box deck, he disappeared from his foreman’s sight. Apparently, he accidentally fell to the ground below. His team members found him lying face down on the rebar base. He was also severely bleeding and unconscious.

It should be noted, that when they found his body, he was wearing a harness and a hard hat. How he fell, however, is a safety issue.

Proof of Negligence

Despite wearing safety gear such as a harness and a hard hat, the ironworker suffered fatal injuries from the fall. Here are the reasons why:

  • The general contractor failed to place anchor points on the deck where a harness could be hooked.
  • Without a harness anchor, the harness itself is useless.
  • There were no handrails nor guardrails on the edges of the 12ft tall wooden box deck.
  • The uncapped steel rods on the rebar base posed an impalement hazard. The lack of protective caps added to iron worker’s fatal injuries. The steel rods impaled him upon falling on the ground below.
  • Prior to the incident, the subcontractor had informed the general contractor about the safety issues beforehand. However, the management said that the fall protection system “would cost too much.”
  • Similarly, the general contractor stated that its employees never used fall protection on projects, because “it would take too much time away from getting the job done quickly.”
  • The government agency’s site inspector ignored safety hazards upon visits before the incident happened. Just like its general contractor, the inspector’s main concern was only about getting the job done.

On Determining Liability

Construction fall accidents are complex cases due to the hierarchy of management at the job sites. To clarify, most construction sites operate under contractual arrangements.

In this case, while the government agency manages the project, a general contractor was the one supervising the job site. Then, under the general contractor, was a subcontractor that hired the ironworker.

With this in mind, we further investigated the parties involved in this incident:

  • The subcontractor who hired the ironworker was only responsible for the steelwork. Their contract did not include the provision of safety protection systems.
  • Simply put, the fall protection and the caps for the steel rods should be supplied by the general contractor.
  • With all the teams involved, the ultimate responsibility goes to the government agency. In this situation, its breach of duty created negligence. Consequently, negligence brought a fatal end to a worker’s life.
  • In a state-funded project, a public entity is responsible for maintaining a safe working environment. The said government agency failed to ensure that safety protocols were followed.

Based on the guidelines set by the OSHA, the government agency’s mandate is to “…ensure that working conditions are…not dangerous to the health or safety of workers…shall admit to the Project credentialed inspectors from OSHA or other agencies responsible for health and safety administration.”

On Seeking Justice and Compensation

Construction fall accidents often lead to wrongful death cases. Due to the blatant disregard for workplace safety, an ironworker lost his life.

Considering all the complexities of this case, the negligent parties will likely pass the blame on one another. With the help of our hardworking attorneys, the iron worker’s family was able to file a strong case.

  • We were able to prove that there was a breach of duty, based on a standard of reasonable care.
  • We have collected ample evidence to prove the job site’s dangerous conditions. It goes with the fact that the government agency knew about it and could have prevented the accident.
  • The iron worker’s family was able to assert their claim against the liable entities for gross negligence.
  • Considering the iron worker’s assessed life expectancy, economic, and emotional damages incurred, the claim demand amounted to $11,000,000.

Above all, no amount of money can compensate for the loss of life. Construction fall accidents are fully preventable. Therefore, it is only fair to demand justice from the liable entities. If you or one of your loved ones suffered from a similar incident, you can rely on Warnock MacKinlay Law to help you.

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