Massachusetts Scaffolding accidents – Regulations and liability

Constructing a rapidly-expanding modern world requires millions of construction workers performing potentially dangerous work. According to OSHA, around 2.3 million construction workers (65 percent of the entire industry) work on scaffolding in limited or high-frequency capacities.  Scaffolding is required to temporarily reach high places while construction is ongoing. Workers must be able to safely construct and navigate scaffolding in order to complete their work duties. As always, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a long list of requirements and regulations regarding the implementation, use and safety of construction scaffolding.

The most common cause of death for construction workers in the United States is falls from great heights. Out of 899 construction worker deaths reported in 2014, 359 were caused by falls. A total of 54 deaths were reported specifically as a result of scaffolding accidents in 2009. Protection from falls and scaffolding violations are number 1 and number 3 respectively on OSHA’s list of top 10 most frequently cited violations in 2015.

Scaffolding requirements

Some of the most important requirements for scaffolding that sits on the ground, as dictated by OSHA, are as follows:

  • Each scaffold and scaffolding component must be able to maintain its own weight plus at least four times its intended maximum load
  • Only qualified individuals should design and construct scaffolding
  • There must be no gaps greater than one-inch wide between planking and support railing. In places where there are obstructions from side brackets or other joints, the space must not exceed nine inches
  • Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches wide. If walkways are less than 18 inches wide, guardrails or fall-protection gear should be implemented
  • Guardrails must be used in all sides of scaffolding over 10 feet in the air, unless an open face of the scaffolding directly faces an area where work needs to be done
  • Wood is an acceptable material for walkways
  • Plastic or steel must NOT be used for guardrails

Some requirements for suspension scaffolds (which hang from a surface overhead), are as follows:

  • A trained and competent person must inspect and ensure the safety of a platform, making sure that the platform will not sway uncontrollably in conditions such as wind
  • A trained and competent person must inspect ropes used to suspend the platform for any damage or defects
  • A trained and competent person must inspect any motorized elements, such as a mechanical hoist, to ensure no defects or issues
  • Guardrails or fall protection equipment must be used in any scaffolding used over 10 feet in the air
  • No items may be used on scaffolding to increase height, such as boxes, crates or ladders
  • Employees are prohibited from working on any scaffolding that is coated in snow, ice or other slippery materials

Safety precautions are non-negotiable

In such a dangerous industry, construction workers take on a sizable risk while performing their regular duties. As a result, many accidental deaths happen every year that may not be prevented despite any amount of safety regulations.  However, there are far too many cases of gross negligence causing deaths that could, and should, have been prevented. If construction foremen don’t follow OSHA protocol or they produce an unsafe work environment, they are liable for the medical expenses, pain and suffering of any worker who is injured as a result.

We have over 40 years of experience litigating negligence cases that result in the personal injury of Massachusetts workers. Falls from improperly-installed or unsafe scaffolding are no different. If somebody was negligent and it resulted in a tragically harmful or fatal fall, we will not cease until we get you the compensation you deserve.  A consultation with one of our experienced attorneys is completely free, and we don’t get paid unless you are successful in your claim. Call us today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199. We are available 24/7.


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