Scaffolding Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
Any time that an employee is performing a job on an elevated platform, there is an added risk. Ground level slips and falls are dangerous enough, but any fall from a height has the potential to cause life-threatening injuries. According to the CDC, 65% of the construction industry work on scaffolds, and 86% of scaffolding deaths occur in the construction industry. But that isn’t the only industry that regularly or intermittently depends on scaffolding. Many businesses rely on temporary scaffolding when cleaning, painting, fixing equipment, or even replacing light bulbs.
A scaffold is a temporary platform upon which workers can stand when they are performing a job. It may be one of three types:
- Suspended from above: The most common type is the swing stage (two point adjustable) scaffold, but there are also multi-level, single-point adjustable, multi-point adjustable, interior hung, needle beam, catenary, and float (ship) scaffolds. They are used by high-rise window cleaners or painters as well as some construction workers. OSHA states that the biggest danger for this type of scaffolding is worker falls, but power lines are a risk factor for electrocution since most of the platforms are made of metal.
- Freestanding: Frame scaffolds are the most common type of supported scaffolds, but there are many other varieties, such as manually propelled, pump jack, ladder jack, tube and coupler, and pole scaffolds. OSHA reports that most falls from these types of structures occur when the workers are climbing on or off them. All scaffolds become unstable as soon as their height is four times (or more) the minimum dimension of their base.
- Aerial lifts: These scaffolding systems include extendable boom platforms, aerial ladders, articulated boom platforms, and vertical towers. OSHA lists the most common risks as:
- Fall from an elevated level
- Objects falling from lifts
- Ejections from the lift platform
- Structural failures (collapses)
- Electric shock (electrocutions)
- Entanglement hazards
- Contact with objects
- Contact with ceilings and other overhead objects
Any type of scaffolding poses significant risks to those working upon it, which is why OSHA requires such stringent training and safety precautions. What many people don’t realize is that others can also be at risk when they are in the proximity of scaffolds. Passersby could easily be struck by falling objects such as hammers, drills, pipe cutters, wrenches, tape measures, or magnetic levels.
The year 2019 was particularly dangerous for the construction industry, as deaths from falls, slips, and trips increased by 11%. Many scaffolding deaths were included in these results: 711 workers died from falls to a lower level, 37 of them specifically due to collapsing structures or equipment.
In 2020, OSHA reported the top 5 most frequent scaffolding safety violations:
- Not using fall protection (such as a body belt) when in a basket
- Missing or poorly installed guardrails on scaffolds higher than 10 feet
- Workers who cross braces to access a platform when they should use a ladder or stair tower
- Leaving gaps of greater than 1 inch between planking on a platform (a tripping hazard)
- Lack of training on scaffold use, material handling, and load capacity
What if you are injured in a work-related scaffolding accident in Mississippi?
If you have been injured as a result of a scaffolding accident, you may be confused as to who can be held accountable. Workers’ compensation insurance is required for all employers with 5 or more employees in the state of Mississippi, so you certainly will be able to make a claim.
Workers’ compensation should pay you for:
- Medical expenses: This includes doctor and hospital bills and prescriptions.
- Lost wages: Wage loss benefits equal 2/3 of your average weekly wage, subject to a maximum weekly amount and time limits.
- Ongoing care costs: This includes medical supplies, physical therapy, rehabilitation services, and mileage reimbursement for travel to medical visits.
- Funeral expenses.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that you don’t have to prove that anyone was at fault or made a mistake in order to file for and receive benefits. It also means that you can’t sue your place of employment because of your work-related injury.
Unfortunately, ⅔ of your average weekly wage may not be sufficient to keep your family able to pay bills. This may be complicated if you had an additional job to help make ends meet and now cannot perform those duties either.
You may be able to pursue a third-party lawsuit if someone other than your employer is responsible for your accident. For example, if the scaffolding on your job site was supplied by another company and it was faulty or wasn’t in compliance with OSHA’s safety standards, you may be able to sue that company for pain and suffering or any expenses not covered by workers’ compensation. If a negligent third party was responsible, you can file a civil lawsuit. This can be at the same time as your workers’ compensation claim; they are two separate claims and don’t depend on each other.
Workers’ compensation claims are intricate and sometimes involve denials and appeals, so an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is recommended to help you navigate the system. You will definitely need the help and advice of a personal injury law firm to lay out your options and build your case if you file a claim against a negligent third party.
The professional, dedicated team of Lunsford, Baskin, & Priebe has years of experience practicing in the areas of both workers’ compensation law and personal injury law. We’ll take on the task of making sure you get your benefits promptly and fully paid, including appealing claim denials if necessary. If necessary, we will also rely on our experience dealing with scaffolding injuries and deaths to help you file a lawsuit against a negligent third party.