How construction scaffolds can put workers at risk of injury

Most major construction projects require workers to do much of their jobs high above the ground. Building or remodeling skyscrapers and other tall buildings require scaffolding, hoists, ladders and other ways to get workers up in the air. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 65 percent of construction workers frequently use scaffolds, so it is not surprising that falls from scaffolds are sadly common.

While some scaffold accidents are unavoidable, many are not truly “accidents” at all, in a legal sense. They are the result of employer negligence. An improperly installed or defective scaffold puts workers in unreasonable danger. Even when the scaffold is safe, workers below can be vulnerable to heavy objects falling off. And without adequate safety equipment, a minor accident can turn deadly.

To minimize the risk of scaffold-related injury and fatality, OSHA enforces several regulations. For instance, scaffolds must be designed and constructed in conformity with OSHA requirements. OSHA also expects scaffolds, scaffold components and fall protection equipment, such as body belts and points of anchorage, to be inspected by a “competent person.” If the inspector discovers any visibly damaged or worn equipment, the equipment is supposed to be immediately removed from use.

Unfortunately, even at responsible job sites accidents sometimes do happen. Scaffold-related injuries are often the most severe of all types of construction accidents. Even when the victim survives, he may end up badly injured. They may need to turn to workers’ compensation to replace the income they will lose as they recover, as well as medical bills and other costs.

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