Dangerous / Unsafe Condition in Workplace: Construction Falls

According to OSHA, falls on construction sites are the number one most cited safety violation. In this article, we will address questions and standards that our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys regularly handle in addressing construction-related injuries from falls. We will cover the Cal/OSHA regulations specific to fall protections on construction sites as well as the general regulations related to fall prevention. We will also discuss whether or not you can file a claim for serious & willful misconduct related to fall prevention and how to report a construction site that does not provide adequate protections against falls.

Dangerous Unsafe Condition in Workplace Construction Falls
What are the Cal/OSHA requirements for fall protections in the workplace?

When it comes to fall protection on construction sites, several different height standards exist. The standard can vary based on the industry you are working in, among other situations. However, the general rule is that anyone working on a construction site in which you could be exposed to falling over 7 ½ feet then it is required you be provided and wear a fall restraint device. This requirement applies not only to people that are working 7 ½ feet above the ground, but also includes people that are on the ground but working 7 ½ feet above a hole, or a combination between the two.

In addition to the general regulation related to fall protection devices, roofing operations have a slightly different standard. In the roofing industry, fall protection devices are needed when working on structures greater than one story in height or where the lowest edge of a sloped roof exceeds 15 feet.

What are the general regulations related to fall prevention on construction sites?

Fall prevention on construction sites means more than just providing fall protective gear from heights. It also includes fixing or removing general tripping or slipping hazards or other dangerous conditions that could potentially lead someone to fall and be injured.

More specifically, as part of every workplace injury and illness prevention program, employers in California have a legal obligation to inspect the workplace for potential fall hazards. Of course, the requirement is not to eliminate or guarantee that no one falls, but rather to reduce risks of falls.

Are there additional penalties for employers who violate Cal/OSHA fall prevention orders?

If you suffered serious injuries as the result of a fall on the job in California, you might be entitled to not only traditional workers' compensation benefits but also additional penalties based on a serious and willful condition. Serious and willful cases, however, are much harder to win than straightforward negligence claims. To prevail on a serious and willful claim for a fall in the workplace, you would generally need to show that the employer had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition. Actual knowledge of a serious and willful claim is different than the "should have known" standard in typical negligence cases.

In addition to showing actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, it must be shown that the employer knew that the probable consequences of the fall would be a serious injury, as opposed to a minor injury. To over-exaggerate, did the employee know someone would likely die, become paralyzed, or suffer a catastrophic injury if they fell, or was it more likely they would skin their knee?

Finally, the employer must have had a reasonable time to remedy the situation after it knew of the dangerous condition. Consequently, it is difficult to prevail on a serious & willful claim for most low-level fall cases. However, falls from a height, including through skylights, without fall protection devices such as a harness, are regular subjects of a serious & willful complaint.

Can you report a workplace for violating safety regulations by failing to provide fall protection equipment?

If you are working for an employer or on a construction site that has a fall risk or employees are not provided adequate fall protection devices, you don't have to wait for someone to be hurt to make a complaint. You first might want to consider approaching your employer about the fall risk. If that does not resolve the problem, another option could be to contact Cal/OSHA directly and file a complaint with that entity.

As Sacramento Workers Compensation Attorneys, we regularly represent clients who have fallen from on a construction site, as those are the number one cited violation by Cal/OSHA. In this article, we attempted to give a summary of the questions we usually face regarding falls on construction sites. We covered topics such as Cal/OSHA regulations specific to fall protections and general regulations related to fall prevention. We also discussed claims for serious & willful related to fall prevention and how to report a workplace that does not provide adequate protections against falls. If you have been injured as a result of a fall at a construction site in California, we hope you will consider contacting one of our Sacramento Workers Compensation Attorneys for a free consultation.