Scaffolding Falls and Construction

Scaffolding is most often used in the construction industry. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds.” (1)

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 61 fatalities occurred in the year 2018 from scaffolds, staging.” (2) Scaffolding related incidents cause “4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year,” indicates the BLS. (3)

“Falls from scaffolds are the third leading cause of construction falls,” according to The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). (4)

N.Y. Scaffolding Injuries and Fatalities

Unfortunately, scaffolding injuries and deaths are common occurrences in New York. There were 29 construction deaths due to slips, trips, and falls in New York state from 2019-2020, says CPWR. (5)

“In New York City; falls, slips, and trips resulted in 24 fatal work injuries… Worker deaths from falls, slips, and trips were up from 17 in 2018,” indicate BLS statistics for 2019. (6)

“The construction and extraction occupational group had the highest number of workplace fatalities with 29,” also notes BLS. (7)

The hazardous nature of scaffold accidents warrants closer attention to what causes them.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a scaffolding accident, contact us today for a free consultation and more information about your legal options.

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Causes of Scaffold Accidents

“Falls from scaffolds occur when the scaffold collapses due to instability and/or overloading, a worker is struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris, a worker is electrocuted due to the proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines, and/or there is a lack of fall protection,” says CPWR. (8)

Here are more details about the causes of scaffold accidents:

  • Support gives way due to defective equipment or improper assembly. A trained person fails to inspect equipment and components for defects before work shifts — or after any occurrence affecting the structural integrity of the scaffold. (9)
  • Slips, trips, and falls: These caused 26% of the total fatal occupational injuries occurring in New York City in 2019. (10)
  • Lack of fall protection. “Each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry.” Absence of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers, and restraint systems can lead to injuries and fatalities. (11)
  • Objects falling from scaffold. Contact with objects and equipment resulted in 19% of the total fatal occupational injuries in NYC the same year. (12)
  • Environmental conditions. Injuries from exposure to harmful substances or weather were responsible for another 19% of occupational fatalities. (13)
  • Overloading leading to collapse. Scaffolds “must not be loaded in excess of their maximum intended loads or rated capacities, whichever is less.” (14)
  • Electrocution due to proximity to power lines. Failure to identify and note the location of all overhead electrical power lines can cause injuries or deaths. Scaffolds placed within 10 feet of power lines may be hazardous. (15)

A scaffold accident can lead to a wide range of injuries, including traumatic ones.

Common Injuries

Among the most common serious injuries resulting from a scaffold accident fall are:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to one study, “Among all age groups, falls can cause serious injury and are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI)–related deaths…The national age-adjusted rate of fall-related TBI deaths increased by 17% from 2008 to 2017.” (16)
  • Spinal cord injury. “Falls accounted for 1,999 (29.54%) of spinal cord injuries, which ranks 2nd in causes of spinal cord injury,” says the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. (17)
  • Paralysis. In the U.S., 27.3% of the cases of those living with paralysis were caused by spinal cord injury. Out of more than a million valid survey responses from people living with paralysis, over 166,000 reported a fall as the cause of their paralysis. (18)
  • Organ damage. According to research, “Fall from height causes inter alia blunt chest trauma, and internal organs contusion (e.g. heart and lungs), and may be fatal to substantial number of trauma victims.” (19)
  • Broken bones. Often broken bones are considered a less serious fall injury, yet they can be very serious. Bone fractures can become serious injuries if they break the skin (called a compound or open fracture). These are often subject to infections or other complications. (20)
  • Contusions, bruising, lacerations. “A contusion or bruise signifies hemorrhage… It is usually the result of a blow or squeeze that crushes the soft tissues and ruptures blood vessels but does not break the skin…A laceration is a tear produced by blunt trauma. The force and direction determine appearance, depth, and associated injuries such as fractures.” (21)

While the people working on the scaffolding are most likely to be injured, passersby and people near the scaffolding are also at risk from falling objects or collapse.

Legal Options

If you have suffered a serious scaffold injury, or a loved one has died, you should carefully consider your legal options. An attorney can help you determine any steps you should take.

Scaffold accidents may fall under negligence. Negligence is the legal concept someone (a person or business) has failed to act with the same “level of care that someone of ordinary prudence” would have under similar circumstances. (22)

The concept hinges on convincing the court how the defendants you are suing owed you a “duty of care” and they breached their duty in some way. This breach could be through their actions or failure to act. (23)

You must prove to the court the party you are suing was negligent and their negligence caused your injuries.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a scaffolding accident, contact us today to discuss your legal options.

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Who Is at Fault?

For example, you are a construction worker who gets hurt. You are on a scaffold and you trip over a bump in the flooring. The scaffold has no guardrails. You fall 20 feet to the ground. Unfortunately, the fall paralyzes you.

Or you are walking down the block on your way to lunch. At one point, you pass under scaffolding being used while workers are overhead. As you move under it, the scaffolding gives way and collapses on top of you. You are rushed to the hospital because you are severely injured on your head and suffer a traumatic brain injury.

Who’s fault is your injury?

The company installing the scaffold may be responsible for failing to put it up correctly. The building owners may be held accountable for failing to maintain the scaffolding properly. If the scaffold fell because it was made defectively, the manufacturer could be the party you need to sue. Or it could be the company you work for, because they didn’t give you appropriate safety training or necessary equipment.

Such cases can be very complex. This is why we recommended the services of an experienced attorney. Here at W&L we have an entire team of personal injury attorneys ready to assist clients.

How W&L Helps

W&L has years of experience helping clients with their injury cases. Cases like these examples illustrate our successful representation of our clients:

  • Verdict of $2.96 million: A hi-lo, negligently driven by a coworker, cost a non-English speaking Ecuadorian worker part of his leg. Also, the pit the men were working in at the time was improperly designed because it lacked adequate barriers.
  • Multimillion dollar settlement: A 30-year-old man fell 25 feet from a second story apartment building walkway while intoxicated. He suffered a traumatic brain injury because the building owner had not installed a fence along the walkway’s outer edge.