When it comes to dangers on the construction site, gravity is a worker’s greatest enemy. A significant portion of claims handled by our New York construction accident lawyers involve falls from a great height, as well as slips, trips, and falling object hazards.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that falls are the leading cause of construction fatalities. While fall-related hazards are present in every industry, falling deaths are most common in construction, which represents 51% of occupational fatal falls in the country.
The Weinstein Law Group is here to assist injured construction worker fall victims when they need to seek economic recovery. Fall injuries are severe and often debilitating, leading to major expenses such as hospital bills, lost wages, and long-term rehabilitation. We can assist you in filing for workers’ compensation and seeking additional recovery from any liable third parties.
Call us today at (212) 741-3800 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation case review where we can discuss your options.
OSHA: Falls Are the Most Deadly Construction Hazard
When discussing both fatal job site injuries and common reasons for a citation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists falling hazards as a number one culprit.
OSHA data from 2017 shows that falls were the number one cause of construction worker deaths, making up 38.7% of all fatalities that year. Also in 2017, lack of adequate fall protection was the top reason for a citation, leading to an average fine of $4,791 per citation.
When looking at the top reasons for OSHA citations in 2019, inadequate construction fall protection is the number one citation once again. In fact, five of the top ten most common citations involved fall risks. They are:
- Fall protection (29 CFR 1926.501)
- Hazard communication, including falling dangers (29 CFR 1910.1200)
- Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451)
- Ladders (29 CFR 1926.1053)
- Fall protection, training (29 CFR 1926.503)
If more job sites and employers followed OSHA’s fall protection rules to the letter, hundreds of deaths in construction and thousands of injuries could be prevented.
Different Falling Hazards on a Construction Site
One of the major reasons falling injuries and deaths are so common in construction is that they can encompass a variety of different hazardous situations. The following are some of the most common ways a falling injury or death can occur:
Lack of Guardrails or a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)
According to 1926.501(b)(1), any time a laborer is working on a surface or that has an unprotected side or edge and there is at least a six-foot drop from any point on that surface, the worker must be provided with either a guardrail, safety net, or personal fall arrest system (PFAS).
Construction employers can be notorious for their unwillingness to provide PFAS equipment. The equipment itself is expensive, and components must often be replaced any time a fall occurs. Erecting the system can also be time-consuming and add to the complexity of work being performed.
Workers must be provided with fall arrest equipment any time they are at risk of a fall greater than six feet and guardrails or safety nets are not available or would prove inadequate for protection.
Holes, Weak Points, and Other Surface Hazards
Construction employees should be adequately warned and safeguarded against any surface irregularities that present a risk of falls, trips, and other incidents.
Gaps in a surface are a common scenario during construction, such as when working on a rooftop with a skylight. Signs should warn workers to stay clear of such hazards, and they should also be guarded from accidentally entering these areas using rails, barriers, or other means.
Scaffolding is intended as a temporary work structure providing workers with safe conditions as they transport materials and execute projects. Scaffolds must be erected properly using materials inspected for safety and workers must be instructed on safe practices when navigating them.
In New York, the Scaffold Law assigns a duty of care to all property owners and general contractors to provide safe scaffolding conditions during any construction work. Any incidents involving a lack of safety due to circumstances like improper erection practices, substandard materials, a lack of warning/training, a lack of necessary guardrails, etc. can lead to direct liability on the part of a property owner or general contractor.
Ladders must be used for specific purposes and only according to specific safe practices. For instance, workers should never use the top rung or surface on a ladder as a step. Ladders should not be used as a makeshift support, nor should they be used to haul materials between levels of a structure.
Lack of Employee Training
Employers have a duty to properly train and instruct their employees on safe work practices. Employers are also expected to enforce these safe practices through supervisors and a system of warning or punishing employees who fail to adhere to them.
Employers may be found to be negligent (though not necessarily liable) in situations where an injury or death was caused in part or in whole by a lack of proper knowledge, training, or instruction.
Tripping and Slipping Hazards
While falls from a height over six feet are a primary concern in construction safety, other hazards present in all job environments still exist. These include:
- Uneven surfaces
- Wet and icy surfaces
- Surfaces with slippery materials, like gravel or dust
- Loose tools and materials
- Unsecured cords
- Improper safety equipment, including boots with inadequate tread
Worksites must enforce rules regarding safe premises to reduce these types of hazards to the extent possible.
For example, all workers should know to replace work boots when the treads are worn smooth. They should also know to keep materials and tools clear from entry and exit points to a work area. All extension cords should be taped down or, at the very least, clearly marked. During inclement weather, such as freezing conditions, management should take steps to reduce natural hazards to the extent possible.
Work With Experienced New York Construction Accident Lawyers After Your Fall
A falling accident can be one of the most traumatic experiences to happen in someone’s life. They could be left with permanent disabilities. In many cases, they will likely have significant medical bills and be unable to return to work for several days or more.
When you are hurt by a construction fall, call an experienced attorney team who will look out for your best interests. The Weinstein Law Group has experience managing workers’ compensation claims to help injured workers seek the most benefits possible. We can also assist in identifying any potentially liable third parties, such as defective equipment manufacturers or negligent property owners.
Give us a call to examine your legal options and help you identify the best path forward for seeking compensation. You can schedule your free, no-obligation case review when you call (212) 741-3800 or contact us online.