Dangerous / Unsafe Condition in Workplace: Scaffolding Falls

According to OSHA, scaffolding violations and falls from scaffolding are the third most cited safety violation. In this article, we will address questions and standards that our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys regularly handle when addressing scaffolding fall-related injuries, including Cal/OSHA regulations specific to scaffolding as well as general regulations related to workplace safety around scaffolding. We will also discuss if you can file a claim for serious and willful penalties for scaffolding violations and how to report a workplace that does not follow the scaffolding safety requirements. 

Dangerous_Unsafe Condition in Workplace Scaffolding Falls
What are the Cal/OSHA regulations specific to scaffolding falls in the workplace?

For a good reason, scaffolds are some of the most regulated items in the workplace. They not only cause a large number of injuries, but falls from scaffolds can be the most catastrophic of job site injuries. 

With a few exceptions, scaffolds are required to be designed and constructed with a dead load factor of at least four times the intended maximum working load, plus its own weight. In other words, if the scaffolding is intended to hold four people on it, then it must be designed to be able to hold the weight of 16 people, plus its own weight.

Scaffolding must also have sufficient anchoring and bracing so that it cannot sway, tip, or collapse. Likewise, any lumber used on the scaffolding must be free from any damage that impacts its strength. Furthermore, all scaffolding planks shall be visually inspected for defects each day. Defective or damaged planks shall not be used in any way and must be removed.

Scaffolding must be built and disassembled by a qualified person who possesses a certification in scaffolding erection and dismantling. They can also be a part of a State of California approved apprenticeship or training program on scaffolding assembling and deconstructing. 

In addition, if the scaffolding becomes slippery, it shall not be used. Work on scaffolding is prohibited during storms or high winds unless a person specially qualified has determined it is safe, and even then, employees must be protected with a fall arrest system or windscreens.

What are the general regulations related to scaffolding safety on a job site?

Prevention of an injury on, around, or from a scaffolding on a job site means more than just meeting the specific regulations related to scaffolding. It also includes the fixing and or removing of general hazards around scaffolding that could potentially lead to a dangerous condition.    

Workplace injury and illness prevention programs are required to include a general inspection of the workplace for potential hazards and to maintain the workplace, so that falls do not occur, or that fall protection devices are provided.

Are there additional penalties for employers who violate Cal/OSHA scaffolding safety orders?

If you suffered serious injuries as the result of a scaffold related fall or injury on the job in California, you may be entitled to not only traditional workers' compensation benefits but possibly additional penalties based on a serious and willful condition. A serious and willful claim for a scaffold injury at the workplace would generally need to show that the employer had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition. This element is actually easier to prove than most cases because of the daily obligations to inspect the scaffolding, as well as the fact that assembly requires supervision by a formally qualified person.

In addition to showing actual knowledge of the dangers of fall conditions, a Sacramento Workers' Compensation Attorney must show that the employer knew that the probable consequences of the scaffolding injury would be a serious injury, as opposed to a minor injury. The height of the fall and conditions surrounding the fall would weigh heavily on this element. 

Finally, the employer must have had a reasonable time to remedy the situation after it knew of the dangerous condition. Again, because of the obligation to make daily inspections, a scaffolding hazard should be readily identifiable and remedied immediately.   

Can you report a workplace for violating scaffolding safety regulations?

If you are working on or around scaffolding on a job site for an employer that you do not think is safe, then you should speak up and notify someone. Scaffolding falls are incredibly dangerous, and unreasonable risks should not be taken. You might first want to consider approaching your employer about the hazardous condition of the scaffolding. If that does not resolve the problem, another option could be to contact Cal/OSHA directly and file a complaint about the dangerous condition of the scaffolding.

As Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, we are confronted with scaffolding injuries in the workplace on a regular basis. This article was only a broad-brush summary of the many Cal/OSHA regulations specific to scaffolding and general regulations related to workplace safety around scaffolding. We also briefly examined if you can file claims for serious & willful penalties of a scaffolding violation and how to report a workplace that does not follow the scaffolding safety requirements. If you have been injured as the result of a dangerous condition on or around scaffolding, please contact one of our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for a free consultation today.