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Who Is Legally Responsible For Scaffolding Accidents?

Posted on November 29, 2021

Scaffolding on construction sites is often rapidly erected and without much planning. As a result, there is a real risk of an accident, such as a collapse or a worker falling from a great height. If you or a loved one suffered severe injuries or was killed in a scaffolding accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation.

Potentially Liable Parties

Construction workers injured in a scaffolding accident can file a workers’ compensation claim to collect benefits such as medical coverage, rehabilitation expenses, and partial or total temporary or permanent disability payments. The workers’ compensation system is in place to prevent employers from being sued and provides benefits to workers injured on the job regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

In some cases, a third party may also be liable for a scaffolding accident—for example:

  • Scaffolding Installers and Manufacturers: If defective scaffolding was responsible for the accident, the manufacturer or installer can be held liable for resulting injuries.
  • Property Owners: Property owners have a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for workers. In some cases, even if the property owner was unaware of a dangerous condition, they may still be liable if it contributes to a scaffolding accident.
  • General Contractor, Construction Manager, or Subcontractor: These parties are legally obligated to ensure a construction site is safe and to warn workers of any hazards with or where the work on scaffolding is being performed.
  • Employees From Other Companies: Since several contractors may work on one construction site at a time, if one of their workers causes or contributes to a scaffolding accident, they may be liable.

You will still receive workers’ compensation benefits, but third-party liability gives you the opportunity to file a lawsuit against the responsible party for further compensation that workers’ comp does not cover.

What Scaffold Safety Standards Exist?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides regulations and safety standards that construction companies must adhere to for the safe assembly, employment, and dismantling of scaffolds and recommends the following:

  • A dependable scaffold should tolerate its own weight and at least four times the maximum weight it is meant to uphold.
  • Never support a scaffold with loose objects, such as barrels or loose brick.
  • All planking should be overlapped by at least 12 inches.
  • Planks should extend between 6 to 18 inches over their end supports.
  • Overhead protection should be in place when work is being conducted overhead to protect workers or pedestrians below.
  • Never allow materials, tools, or debris to accumulate on a scaffold.
  • All safeguards and fall protections have to be thoroughly inspected to ensure the correct equipment is being used in the approved manner.
  • Shore scaffolds and lean-to scaffolds are prohibited.
  • Every employee should be provided with suitable safety gear, such as body harnesses, rope grabs, helmets, lanyards, and independent lifeline anchorages.

Any violations of OSHA safety standards or regulations can be used as evidence of an unsafe scaffold in a lawsuit against a liable party.