Florida High Rise Construction Is High Risk for Fall Accidents
Drivers on Sarasota's Clark Road may pass the modern Mercedes-Benz dealership without a thought (unless, of course, they're in the market for a new luxury car).
They probably don't consider the building, with its bright walls of windows, to be threatening. But as two workers discovered when they fell from scaffolding beside the dealership in mid-May, any building can present a potential danger when construction work is involved.
Sarasota County Emergency Services reported that the two workers fell about three stories, or more than 30 feet, when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. Both workers were transported to the hospital with serious injuries.
Last July, a similar incident endangered the life of a Sarasota stucco worker. When the scaffolding he was working on malfunctioned, he was able to hold on and dangle 11 stories off the ground until emergency crews could get him to safety more than an hour and a half later. One month earlier, another construction worker had to be rescued when scaffolding broke between the 14th and 15th floors of the Sarasota condo building he was working on. His safety harness helped prevent traumatic injuries.
In this blog post, we examine the potential dangers of working on high-rise construction projects, employers' duties to keep their workers safe on a high-rise construction site, and steps workers injured on a high rise construction job can take to protect their rights.
The Dangers of Working High Rise Construction
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that one in five U.S. worker fatalities happen in the construction industry. More than a third of these—38.7 percent—are due to falls. Perhaps not surprisingly, OSHA fall protection safety standards are the most commonly violated standards on construction job sites.
If workers are more than six feet above the ground, OSHA standards require a guardrail, a safety net, or a personal safety system like a harness to protect them. While it is common for workers 15 stories in the air to follow these standards, unfortunately it is less common for them to follow the standards at lower heights.
While there are no conclusive reports that show anyone associated with the Mercedes-Benz showroom incident was negligent, there are other incidents around the state where OHSA has had to levy fines due to exposing workers to undue danger. For example, the administration fined a Jacksonville-area builder almost $200,000 in May after inspectors witnessed employees on two job sites working up to 11 feet and up to 22 feet off the ground, respectively, without fall protection.
Scaffolding Fatalities in High Rise Construction Accidents
Scaffolding itself can also be dangerous, particularly if it is not assembled correctly. There were 54 fatalities related to scaffolding in 2009, the last year statistics were compiled, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (“CFOI”). In all accidents involving scaffolding, 72 percent of injuries occurred when the support or planking broke, the employee slipped or an object fell from above. To combat this, OHSA requirements include:
- That those who set up or take down scaffolding be thoroughly trained
- The scaffolding itself be professionally designed
- The scaffolding must be set up on a solid foundation
- Workers are trained to use the scaffolding safely and to identify common hazards
- Workers do not exceed weight limits when using the scaffolding
- Any time these crucial safety measures are skipped or rushed, workers face a greater risk of injury.
- How Can Employers Mitigate the Dangers of Working on High-Rise Construction?
- Fall protection safety standards call for employers of workers on a high-rise job site to use either:
- A way of blocking any falls, like a guardrail and toeboard
- A way of safely catching anyone who falls, like a net or a harness
In addition, employers need to keep flooring clean and dry to prevent slips that lead to falls. Workers should also be informed about safety measures and trained on how to use safety equipment and avoid falls.
Scaffolding must also be erected and dismantled according to professional standards and should be assessed by a professional or highly-trained worker to ensure it is in the right place and that weight limits are not exceeded. Guardrails should be installed on ends and workers should never be permitted to climb the scaffolding using cross-bracing.
Safety Regulations Prevent High Rise Construction Accidents
Finally, employers need to establish a culture of obeying safety regulations at all times. Some workers may feel they can safely work at heights just above 6 feet without issues. Supervisors may encourage quick jobs to be completed without the time-consuming use of a harness. Neither of these actions is legal and taking them can lead to injuries and fines. Adhering to proper safety regulations and using safety equipment at all times is imperative.
Liable Parties for a High Rise Construction AccidentJust like with construction of any nature, there are accidents that can occur due to the negligence of certain parties. These accidents can result in damages that can drastically affect someone involved in the way of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future disability. The parties held responsible can be held accountable and personal injury claims can be made to recover compensation for damages from them. In the case of construction accidents, liable parties can include not just the construction company that employs those injured in the accident. Liable parties can also include any party that's negligent actions directly contributed to the accident. Maintenance companies in charge of maintaining equipment that can cause accidents, or the manufacturers of the equipment that caused an an accident can be held liable if it can be proven that their negligence contributed to the accident.
What Should You Do if You're Injured From a Fall on a High-Rise Construction Job?
The first thing to do if you're injured in a fall is to seek immediate medical attention. If the injury seems minor, it may be tempting to shake it off, but any fall can have a negative impact on your health. Some falls can cause bleeding in the brain, known as epidural hemorrhage. This condition is hard to catch since patients appear normal and deterioration is rapid and critical.
Other types of head injuries may initially seem minor, but they can produce lasting issues like seizures, short- and long-term memory loss, headaches and other types of chronic pain, and even behavioral changes. Falls can also cause a spinal fracture that could lead to long-term complications like pain, numbness, and a reduced range of motion.
Seek a Skilled Florida Personal Injury Attorney
If you are hurt in any way on a high-rise construction site, you should speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as you have received adequate medical attention. An attorney can ensure that your employer treats you fairly and takes proper responsibility for your injury. This may include filing a workers' compensation claim or pursuing legal action to recover damages from responsible parties. Any employer who provides scaffolding and safety systems has a responsibility to ensure you are correctly trained and that the equipment is properly installed.
Even if you're not sure what caused your accident, it can be helpful to talk to a lawyer about your options and legal rights. Your lawyer can help you document your injuries and accurately report the conditions you were working under, especially if your employer was negligent.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we represent construction workers who have suffered high-rise job site injuries, and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured or tragically died on a high-rise construction job site, call us today at (941) 210-7586 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 8039 Cooper Creek Blvd suite 105 University Park, FL 34201-3007 (941) 210-7586 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/sarasota-personal-injury-lawyer/