Workers in the construction industry and the offshore drilling industry encounter on-the-job risks every single day. Most people know that construction and maritime work is dangerous. Many of the accidents and injuries that happen to people in these fields work on scaffolds. One thing that makes scaffolding so dangerous is the height of some scaffolds, which can be hundreds of feet in the air. Scaffolding safety is a priority because workers handle building materials, use electrical equipment, and drill and operate machines on scaffolding.
Some of the hazards of scaffolding on a construction or oil rig project include falling objects, working with dangerous machines, and electrocution.
What Is a Scaffold?
A scaffold is a temporary platform workers put in place to stand or sit on when working above the ground. Scaffolding is essential to construction. Scaffolding on the outside of buildings is sometimes constructed to allow pedestrians to walk underneath. Scaffolds are erected offshore or at sea to perform maintenance or make repairs to offshore oil rigs. Painters, miners, bricklayers, and many other professionals use scaffolds to help them reach certain places they cannot reach by lifts or by using a ladder.
Are Scaffolds Safe?
If crews do not set up or use a scaffold properly, it can become very dangerous and potentially lead to deadly accidents. Not setting up scaffolds correctly is OSHA’s third most cited violation.
In one recent year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) gave out almost 4,000 citations for the improper set-up of scaffolds. The agency believes that over two million construction workers use scaffolds to do their jobs, which is 65 percent of the entire construction workforce.
While many people have received training to use scaffolds, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 72 percent of workers still experienced injuries from using scaffolds. Most of the reported injuries happened due to the scaffold’s planking losing support, workers falling off or people below getting hit with falling debris.
OSHA has strict requirements for ensuring the safety of using scaffolds. For example, scaffolds are required to support the entire weight of the structure and four times the planned load. Guardrails must be installed on all sides and ends of the platform, and suspension ropes need to support at least six times the planned load. OSHA works to ensure that individuals around the country who use scaffolds use safety equipment and inspect their scaffolds. Despite OSHA's efforts, some companies still choose to not provide protective equipment and properly train their people on scaffolding hazards. Without safety standards, more scaffolding-related accidents will continue to happen.
What Happens if Offshore Companies Do Not Follow OSHA’s Scaffolding Requirements?
Financial penalties are likely if an offshore company does not follow OSHA’s scaffolding requirements. Unfortunately, some businesses ignore OSHA's requirements or find ways around them. This is usually because the employer wants to cut costs, save money, or reduce downtime, which can put workers in extremely dangerous situations. Since construction and oilfield workers work in some of the most hazardous industries, they may falsely believe their employers are looking out for their safety. However, this is not always the case. As a result, scaffolding accidents have become one of the most common types of construction accidents in America.
Scaffolding Accidents in the U.S.
While scaffolding is used throughout the country and across the world, Texas is a state that frequently uses scaffolds to add new projects to its ever-changing and growing communities. Other American states experiencing housing market surges also use scaffolds, which may increase scaffolding accidents.
Here are a few dangerous scaffolding accidents that occurred in Texas as well as other states around the United States in past years:
A scaffolding worker was found in the La Quinta Channel in Corpus Christi, Texas, after falling from the Kiewit Offshore Project. He died from the fall.
Four people were on a scaffold when winds began to pick up in Rockford, Illinois. They noticed that the scaffold began to detach from the building, so they got off the structure immediately. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but people ran for their lives.
Three people suffered injuries in New York City as it began to pour rain. A construction worker and two pedestrians suffered injuries when part of the plywood construction wall fell near Times Square. This led the company to receive several violations and a stop-work order.
Scaffolding accidents caused 60 deaths and almost 5,000 injuries across the U.S. Falls are one of the main reasons these injuries and deaths occur, as falls make up 25 percent of fatalities among scaffold-related deaths. Even if a worker survives a scaffold accident, they might need costly medical treatment and suffer lifelong disabilities.
While employers believe they are cutting corners to save money by not following the safety requirements implemented by OSHA, they can lose up to $90 million when a scaffolding accident occurs. Injured workers and their families also stand to lose a lot, both in financial and intangible losses.
Common Causes of Scaffolding Accidents While Working Offshore on an Oil Rig or in Construction
There are various causes of scaffolding accidents because every single accident is unique.
The following are some common causes of scaffolding accidents:
Explosions and fires
Scaffold support failing
Slip and falls
Lack of guardrails
Falling objects and debris
Wind, rain, snow, ice
Not enough fall protection
Overloading and too much weight
When you face injuries caused by an accident involving scaffolding on a construction site, you need an experienced lawyer in your corner to help you recover compensation. While proven safe when installed correctly, scaffolding can still be very dangerous for construction workers. Protect your rights today by discussing your legal options with an offshore construction attorney.
Common Scaffolding Accident Injuries
Since scaffolding helps workers access heights that are normally too high, scaffolding accidents typically lead to severe injuries or even death.
The most common types of scaffolding injuries include:
Broken or fractured bones
Amputation or loss of limbs
Traumatic brain injuries or skull injuries
Spinal cord injuries
Most scaffolding accident injuries are considered catastrophic, resulting in serious injuries that happen unexpectedly and may result in permanent disabilities. When someone is severely injured in a scaffolding accident, they likely cannot work again or perform their normal daily tasks. Therefore, they may need ongoing daily assistance and care for the rest of their lives.
Getting proper compensation for a catastrophic injury is challenging, so victims need the right legal assistance.
Who Is Liable for a Scaffolding Accident?
Determining who is liable for a scaffolding accident requires an investigation. Finding fault in a scaffolding accident depends on the circumstances and the evidence. A scaffolding accident attorney will investigate who was responsible for building the scaffold, how the accident happened, and whether the injured person was a worker or a pedestrian.
Different people and companies, including the employer, can be liable for a scaffolding accident. The contractor who built the scaffolding, the manufacturer of the scaffolding parts, or the property owner can all be parties to a scaffolding accident lawsuit. An experienced and skilled scaffolding accident lawyer will review your case and determine who is liable for your injuries.
Evidence such as police reports, medical records, witness statements, photos from the scene, video footage, and engineering records, are necessary to build a case against the responsible parties.
How to Prove Negligence in a Scaffolding Accident
To have a successful personal injury case, you must show negligence in some way.
Here is how you can show proof of negligence in a scaffolding accident case:
The defendant (responsible party) owed you a duty of care, which was most likely to keep you safe and out of harm’s reach
The defendant (responsible party) breached their duty of care by failing to keep you safe and injury-free
This breach caused the accident, which led to your injuries
Because of this breach, you have damages and losses to the defendant’s negligent behavior
While it may sound easy to prove negligence, it can sometimes become difficult. The easiest factor to prove is that the victim has damages and losses, but the hardest factor to prove is that the defendant was responsible for these damages and losses. A legal professional will use their background, skills, and knowledge to ensure that negligence is proven and that the responsible party is held accountable for their carelessness.
The Damages You Can Claim for Your Scaffolding Accident
Many different damages may occur due to your scaffolding accident. When deciding what damages you have, think about the pain and suffering and the accumulating costs you are experiencing now. This may include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include medical treatment, surgeries, lost income, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, home modifications, services for daily tasks, and more.
Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, loss of happiness and enjoyment, loss of companionship, trauma, and more.
If your family member, partner, or loved one died in a scaffolding accident, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit instead. This will ensure that the responsible party is accountable for this horrific event that caused the death of a loved one.
Nothing can be as traumatic as the unexpected passing of a loved one, especially due to someone else’s negligence. You can ensure they are accountable for their actions and required to pay for funeral and burial expenses, the earned income the deceased is no longer receiving, and the loss of their support and companionship.
Have a Professional Offshore Construction Accident Lawyer in Your Corner
Offshore employers are aware of the dangers that come with this type of work. Companies are also plenty aware of the risks of their business and know that they must work to keep each of their employees safe and hazard-free when they are on the job. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and scaffolding accident attorneys must step in and hold them accountable.
If you have recently experienced an injury from a scaffolding accident and are unsure if you have a viable case, call an offshore construction accident attorney at the Wyatt Law Firm today. These legal professionals have experience, credentials, and passion for fighting for victims’ legal rights.
We understand that a scaffolding accident is a devastating experience. Therefore, we believe you should focus on your healing journey while a lawyer advocates on your behalf to ensure that you receive the compensation and justice that you ultimately deserve. Call an experienced personal injury lawyer near you at Wyatt Law Firm to start the process of filing a claim for compensation. You should not have to pay out of your own pocket for medical bills and other expenses related to your injury.