Construction Accidents/Scaffolding Accidents in New York & New Jersey
Construction sites are inherently dangerous places of work, but there are many ways to make sure that workers and others in the area remain safe. Scaffolding, a temporary structure used on construction sites, is designed with this specific purpose in mind.
Unfortunately, these structures are not intended for long-term use and often cause serious construction site injuries. It is important to understand that most scaffolding structures are manufactured by a third party. This means if someone is injured due to a defective structure or related issue, it isn’t the construction company who will be liable for the resulting damages.
A frequent cause of injury is scaffolding design not being well-designed or having a defect that results in a collapse. These accidents can also happen when the scaffolding has been made with low-quality or cheap materials. For this reason, it is important for construction companies to weigh the price of the structure against its quality.
Although many construction site accidents are unavoidable, those involving scaffolding are. The company that built the structure is responsible for its design and construction, meaning when someone is injured in a scaffolding accident, the victim will need to file a third-party claim.
The Dangers of Construction Site Scaffolding in New York and New Jersey
Construction workers must constantly adapt to changes in their work environment as their project progresses. To work on the parts of the building that are high off the ground, scaffoldings are often used, allowing workers to easily accomplish tasks dozens of feet off the ground in areas that would normally be inaccessible.
Scaffolds are valuable tools in the construction industry and many tasks could not be done without them. However, they are also frequently the cause of some of the most serious work-related accidents experienced on a job site. Each year, construction workers are severely injured in accidents that involve scaffolding.
As construction tools go, scaffolding is invaluable. Many necessary jobs could not be accomplished without them. They are also one of the leading causes of serious job site accidents and fatalities due to their considerable distance from the ground below.
If you have been injured in a scaffolding accident, contact the New Jersey and New York construction accident attorneys at Metro Law today. We can help you recover what you have lost.
Different Types of Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a temporary, elevated work platform often used in construction work. There are three kinds of scaffolds:
- Supported scaffolds: These are made up of one or more platforms, each of which is supported by inflexible, load-bearing components, such as legs, poles, outriggers, or frames.
- Suspended scaffolds: This type of scaffold consists of one or more platforms suspended from ropes or other moveable, overhead support.
- Aerial lifts: These are usually personnel hoists, man lifts, and scissor lifts. These devices can be considered machinery or vehicles but are generally considered to be a form of supported scaffold.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that roughly 2.3 million construction workers use scaffolding on a daily basis, and about 4,500 of those workers sustain fatal or critical injuries every year due to employer negligence and improper scaffolding safety precautions.
In spite of the numerous federal and state regulations, along with the industry standards that require subcontractors, general contractors, and owners to enforce a wide range of safety measures, scaffolding accidents still occur.
What Makes Scaffolding Dangerous?
Scaffolds are needed for various kinds of construction projects, making them a standard piece of equipment on any job site. Even the most experienced laborer can easily become the victim of a job site scaffolding accident. There are many circumstances that could cause a scaffold to become a dangerous work hazard.
Poor Assembly: Scaffolds are provisional structures. This means they are designed to be put together and taken apart with relative ease. Disturbingly, this also means that careless or improper assembly can jeopardize the stability of the platform. If appropriate precautions aren’t taken, the scaffold could collapse in part or whole, sending a worker free falling to the ground with the potential to strike anything in their path with incredible force. An unstable scaffold could also cause materials to fall, landing on and seriously injuring anyone standing below.
Passersby: Even though scaffolds are designed to be stable and durable, they are still susceptible to damage. If pedestrians, vehicles, or even other laborers are in the area and accidentally crash into the structure, it could become damaged or destroyed, causing serious injuries to those in the way. In addition, smaller scaffolding is more likely to jolt when it is hit, which could send a worker plummeting over the edge.
Falling Objects: The top of the scaffolding is not the only dangerous place to be. If someone working high up drops an object, anybody standing underneath is at risk of being hit. Materials of any kind could potentially be hazardous when it plunges down from a substantial height. The objects that are typically dropped at a construction site can pose an especially high threat. These include buckets, wrenches, hammers, and other heavy tools.
Faulty Manufacturing: Sometimes, a scaffolding accident is not a worker’s fault. Instead, it is caused by the defective manufacturing of the materials used to make it. For example, if the rods used to build the scaffold are poorly made it might not support the weight it should, or if the wooden planks are compromised they could bend and break under pressure. Typically, workers will not realize the danger they are in until it is too late because the defect will not become apparent until the structure is used.
Falls from Scaffolding in New York and New Jersey
About 65% of the construction industry works on scaffolds. Even with the numerous municipal, state, and federal regulations enacted to protect them, consistent unsafe practices are the source of several thousand preventable construction site accidents every year.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls at construction sites are the number one cause of work-related casualties. Scaffolding-related construction accidents are responsible for the deaths of an estimated 50 construction workers every year and the serious injury of another 4,500.
Scaffolds are a vital piece of construction equipment and it is not uncommon for them to be the only way for certain jobs to be performed at a construction site. Appropriate assembly and proper worker training are critical to protecting workers from falls. Falling accidents can be the result of:
- Improper assembly of scaffolding equipment
- Faulty scaffolding equipment
- Unstable, cluttered, or slippery walking surfaces
- The structure was assembled without the proper guards or handrails
- The scaffold was not properly tested, inspected, or maintained
- Inadequate safety training for workers
- Failing to use or provide personal fall protection equipment
Common Scaffolding Injuries
Scaffolding that has sharp edges or is broken can cause comparatively minor injuries like contusions and lacerations. Falls from scaffolding usually involve more serious injuries, including those that cause long-term or permanent disability, and even death.
The repercussions of a scaffolding accident can be devastating to the injured construction worker and their family.
The New York and New Jersey scaffolding injury attorneys at Metro Law help injured workers and their loved ones collect financial compensation for fall-related injuries including:
- Neck and head trauma
- Back and spine injuries
- Internal injuries and organ damage
- Traumatic brain injury
- Severed limbs
- Paraplegia or quadriplegia
Besides the scaffolding injury itself, accident victims will also experience lost income and decreased earning potential. They will possibly have to endure multiple immediate and future operations and require rehabilitative services. They may also need modifications to their car or home.
Spouses may have to deal with a loss of companionship and whole families must face the burden of providing round-the-clock, at-home care for the victim.
Scaffolding Safety Requirements in New York and New Jersey
Employers are expected to adhere to the safety standards that have been established for scaffolds. Some of the more important safety requirements they are expected to follow include:
- All scaffolding and scaffolding components have to support, without failure, its own weight, as well as four times the maximum load being transmitted or applied to it.
- It must be restrained against movement by tiebacks placed at 90-degree angles to the front of the structure or building, or by opposite angle tiebacks placed and fastened to a structurally sturdy point of anchorage.
- Only two employees can occupy suspension scaffolding built for a working load of 500 pounds.
- Only three employees can occupy suspension scaffolding built for a working load of 750 pounds.
- The scaffold must be designed by a qualified individual and assembled according to that design.
- Scaffolding and scaffolding components should not carry weight in excess of their rated capacity or maximum intended load, whichever is less.
- All suspension support devices, like cornice hooks, parapet clamps, and outrigger beams must be supported by surfaces able to support at least four times the load they are intended to bear.
These conditions for safe scaffolds are third on OSHA’s top 10 list of most frequently violated construction site standards. If you were injured in a scaffolding accident due to another person’s negligence, your best course of action is to reach out to a skilled construction accident lawyer in New Jersey right away.
OSHA Scaffolding Requirements
OSHA reported that falls are the leading cause of accidental fatalities in the construction industry, claiming 381 out of 971 worker deaths in a recent year. Defective scaffolds are the main cause of construction accidents involving falls from a height.
OSHA has assembled an extremely long list of detailed requirements for scaffolding construction, assembly, and use to help reduce the number of severe or deadly workplace injuries. A few of OSHA’s numerous scaffolding standards are as follows:
- All scaffolding and scaffolding components have to be able to support, without failure, their own weight and four times the maximum load the scaffold will be holding.
- Suspension ropes and the associated connecting hardware used on non-adjustable suspension scaffolding must be able to support, without failure, six times the maximum load to be transmitted or applied to that rope.
- Scaffolding and scaffolding components should be examined for observable defects by a qualified individual prior to each work shift and after any event that could influence its structural integrity.
- The maximum distance from the front for lathering and plastering operations is one and a half feet.
- Each scaffolding stairway should be at least a foot and a half wide between the rails.
Failing to follow these strict scaffolding safety guidelines is a dangerous habit that almost always ends in a serious or deadly accident.
Who Is Liable for Scaffolding Accident Injuries in New York and New Jersey?
Defects in scaffolding are a major factor in many serious construction accidents. When scaffolding is built with poor-quality materials or not properly installed, it can collapse and cause serious injuries or death. The majority of scaffolding is designed and built for the construction site by a third party. When injuries take place due to poorly or incorrectly installed scaffolding, it is usually a third party, not the construction company, who is accountable for the ensuing injuries and damages.
Workers’ Compensation vs Third-Party Claims
Most employees who are hurt on the job file a claim for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits usually cover medical expenses relating to their injury and offer them partial compensation for their lost wages.
Should a scaffolding built by a contractor collapse, however, and cause injury to a worker, the victim is entitled to pursue financial compensation from the third party that installed it instead of their employer. Damages you might be able to claim in this situation include medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering. The potential for significant economic recovery is very high with a third-party liability claim.
Contact a New York or New Jersey Scaffolding Accident Lawyer
If you were seriously injured as a worker at a construction site in New York or New Jersey, we strongly recommend that you speak with an aggressive, dependable New Jersey or New York personal injury attorney. Schedule a no-obligation review of your potential construction accident claim with one of the scaffolding accident lawyers at Metro Law by calling (973) 721-9984 today.