Chopra & Nocerino, LLP

How to maintain safe scaffolding on construction sites

Scaffolding accidents are an especially common occurrence in the construction industry in New York and throughout the nation. They cost U.S. employers about $90 million in lost work days every year. Improper scaffolding practices were the third most prominent OSHA violation in 2016, leading to some 3,900 citations.

Maintaining scaffolding safety is therefore essential. The following is a summary of some OSHA guidelines on the matter. First, scaffolds must be able to carry their own weight as well as four times the max expected load without the risk for settling or displacement. They must have solid footing and not be supported on unstable objects like concrete blocks, boxes and barrels.

Scaffolds should be outfitted with guardrails, midrails and toe boards. Furthermore, the platforms should be tightly planked. If synthetic or natural rope is used to suspend the scaffold, it must be shielded from heat-producing sources. The scaffold should also be at least 10 feet away from power lines. Employers can use ladders and stairwells to access scaffolds.

A competent person should oversee the building, moving, disassembling and altering of scaffolds. This same person could inspect the scaffolding at regular times. If any braces, brackets, screw legs or ladders become damaged or weakened, they must immediately be repaired. Lastly, employees should be properly trained for scaffolding work. In particular, they should know the dangers of using diagonal braces for fall protection.

Those who incur injuries in scaffolding accidents may be wondering what their options are when seeking compensation. If there is evidence that the employer was negligent, they might file a personal injury claim. If there is no such evidence, they can file for workers' compensation benefits, which will cover medical expenses and at least a portion of lost wages. Workers' comp claims can still be denied, so an injured employee may want to hire a lawyer who can assist with any appeals.

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