Scaffolding is a common structure at many construction sites. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA), over 60% of workers use scaffolding on a daily basis. That is why OSHA established safety standards that regulate installation and maintenance of scaffolding to help prevent possible accidents and injuries to construction workers. However, construction companies often ignore these standards, and scaffolding accidents result in hundreds of injuries every year.
In fact, according to OSHA, taking steps towards protection the workers from being injured could prevent 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries every year.
There are many types of scaffolds, such as tube and coupler scaffolds, wood pole scaffolds, mobile scaffolds, horse scaffolds, and needle beam scaffolds, to name a few. However, they all have one thing in common: all scaffolds should be properly constructed and erected and should be kept free of tools, trash, debris, ice and other slippery substances since scaffolding accidents often happen when the structure is not assembled properly. Such things as improperly maintained, not tested scaffold or workers who don’t have proper skills and knowledge are one of the most common reasons for accidents.
Causes of Scaffolding Accidents
Even though many factors can cause accidents, these are the most common ones that could be prevented:
- Improper installation
- Improper use
- Improper maintenance
- Defective components
What injuries are caused by Scaffolding Accidents?
When scaffolding collapses, multiple fatal injuries can occur – however, collapse is not the most common danger posed. Unmaintained scaffolding often results in falls, causing a person to suffer broken bones, brain and spinal injuries, and even wrongful death.
Equipment and tools can also accidentally slide off scaffolding, resulting in possible injuries caused by impact to the head. Hardhats provide a good level of protection, but even they can’t prevent injuries when a heavy tool falls of off scaffolding.
Another injury that workers can get is burn injury. This is quite common and dangerous for painters, electricians and everyone who work close to wires. A single malfunction can result in electrical shock and lead to the explosion of fire.
Every year, over 60 people are killed or injured by electrocution. Electrocution refers to a situation when a piece of equipment, a person or a tool comes into contact with exposed electrical sources or power lines. Oftentimes, this accident occurs because workers are not informed of all energized sources, from damaged connectors and receptacles to underground and overhead power lines. For example, a worker standing on a metal scaffold may strike a power line.
Fires and Explosions
Construction sites often contain risky conditions such as exposed to flammable chemicals, leaking pipes and wiring. These all could lead to explosions and fires. Fires are less common that falls and electrocutions but they are often fatal or result in serious injuries.
Although workers know that they should not stand between an immovable object and heavy equipment, sometimes people just forget about it and put themselves in serious danger. Caught in or between accidents are when a body is squeezed, caught or compressed between two objects. For example, some scaffolds are heavy and body parts can be caught between the scaffold and the wall.
Why follow safety standards?
OSHA standards are made to prevent possible injuries and deaths, thus sticker adherence to them is necessary to enhance safety. Every year OSHA publishes top ten safety standard violations that led to death or serious injuries.
Who is responsible for safety on a construction site?
Quite often, a contract has details concerning parties that share responsibility for maintaining a safe working environment. For example, a contractor is typically responsible for ensuring a safe working place for employees and subcontractors, while subcontractors are also responsible for specific safety standards that apply to their work.
However, as a rule of thumb, everyone is responsible for safety on a construction site. That being said, each worker should contribute to the effort of maintaining the scaffold properly. If a person feels that there is a potential risk, it is his responsibility to notify others of the hazard and inform to the manager.