Construction Accidents Involving Falls From Heights
Were you injured in a construction accident after falling from a height? Were your injuries the result of another's negligence?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys represent injured workers ensuring they receive the monetary recovery and workers' compensation benefits they deserve. Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
All information you share with our legal team remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship. Let us review your case's merits and begin the process of receiving financial compensation for your damages.
The building industry is among the most dangerous working sectors. It reports a higher number of severe accidents and injuries caused by these accidents.
A job as a construction worker ranks among the most hazardous jobs in the United States. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) categorizes events involving falls from heights as the most common construction accident in America.
Construction Accidents Involving a Fall From Heights Stats
A fall from heights accounts for almost 48% of construction workers' injuries and nearly 30% of fatalities. Moreover, 1 out of 5 workers suffering a fatal injury in the U.S. is from the building sector. Falls from above are often the leading cause of catastrophic damages.
Figures from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) suggest that 566 out of 1623 occupational deaths in the U.S. in 2018 were caused by falling from heights hazards. OSHA also estimates that falling from height risk will continue as the leading cause of occupational deaths in the foreseeable future.
What Causes Falling From Height?
Falling from heights risk can occur due to a lack of proper scaffolding, fragile roofs, unprotected edges, unstable equipment, and weather conditions, often the leading causes of falling from height.
Construction workers often work at significant heights using ladders leading to serious falls from above. A lack of protective gear is the main reason behind the high number of falls from heights reported by the construction industry.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines require all businesses to have fall prevention mechanisms if workers work at certain heights using ladders. OSHA has also released specific guidelines for the construction industry due to the high number of falls from height accidents in the construction sector.
OSHA requires general businesses to have fall prevention systems in place if workers have to work at the height of 12 feet above the ground to safeguard their safety against falls. This limit is 5 feet for the shipbuilding industry and 6 feet for the construction industry.
The regulatory agency also mandates different fall-prevention systems that businesses must provide to employees to prevent falls or reduce injuries resulting from height hazards. These measures include:
- Employers must provide a safety guardrail and toe-board around elevated open-sided platforms, floors, stairs, or runways to arrest the risk.
- To minimize the risk, employers must guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally fall into using safety guardrails, toe-board, or a floor hole cover.
- Employers must provide other safety means of fall prevention such as chest harnesses, full-body harnesses, stair railings, hand railings, and safety nets to keep risk at bay. Availing safety training to employees is also essential.
Companies must also clearly mark the areas prone to falls from above-using markings and graphics visible to employees working in the area to avoid falls. Failure to do so may put lives at risk and open the company to negligence claims as they can be held liable for a fall from a height accident.
Forepersons, supervisors, and managers are required to provide lanyards, safety harnesses, and other fall protection equipment free of cost to their employees to avoid risk. Not doing so is a clear violation of OSHA guidelines meant for protecting workers from accidents involving falls from heights.
Harnesses offer the best personal fall protection and are the safest fall arrest systems in use today. Businesses of all sizes use harnesses of one type or another to avoid risk.
Fall safety gear is often successful in arresting the fall risk and ensuring that a falling person doesn't hit the ground. Equipment such as harnesses also helps in positioning when working in a confined space.
Some businesses also use equipment such as self-retracting lanyards to reduce the fall length. Self-retracting lanyards act as seatbelts and can be released or retracted during normal movement. These safety devices lock in during a fall and minimize how far the worker falls.
How a Fall From Height Typically Occurs
Most falls from height occur at construction sites, including buildings under construction, demolition sites where demolishing is taking place, and other locations where construction work at a height is happening using ladders.
Injuries You Can Get From Falling From a Height
Falling from ladders often leads to severe injuries that can sometimes prove fatal and are often life-changing to the person involved in the job. Therefore, safety awareness training among employees is critical in preventing falls from height accidents.
Most common injuries after falling from a height include:
- Broken bones
- Fractured elbows
- Thoracic injuries
- Pelvic injuries
- Ankle joint fracture
- Fracture of upper limbs
- Broken skull
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Bruises and lacerations
- Ruptured discs
- Wrongful death
Injuries depend on several factors, such as the height from where the person fell. Generally, falling from minor heights of less than 2 to 4 feet does not lead to significant injuries. In contrast, falling from a substantial elevation of more than 12 feet could lead to severe damage to the body.
Treating Falls From Height
Each fall case is different, and thus the treatment for treating falls from heights could vary greatly. After falling from heights, most victims get medical attention at trauma centers and emergency care centers. Doctors analyze their wounds and describe a further course of action.
Many patients who fall from height often need surgery to repair the broken bones and tissue. However, there may not be a need for major surgery in minor injuries. These patients are discharged within a day or two from the hospital after falls.
What Is The Most Common Type of Ladder Accident?
Falling from a ladder is the most common type of accident. It can happen after an employee slips or trips. Falling from a ladder may not seem like a significant injury at first glance.
A serious ladder accident could lead to life-threatening injuries if an employee falls off the ladder from a considerable height of around 12 feet or more. In such cases, the person who falls from the ladder could suffer from a wide range of fractures in one or more bones, hence the need for prior safety awareness training.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Fall From Height Accident?
One or more persons or organizations could be held liable for damages in a fall from height case at a workplace. Usually, the construction company, general contractor, property owner, sub-contractor, or third party could be held liable for a ladder accident.
Suppose a fall from a ladder happens due to a piece of faulty equipment at the workplace. In that case, the company that manufactured the defective equipment can be held liable for the accident.
Suppose the construction company in question was non-compliant with OSHA standards for workers' personal safety. In that case, the injured worker could also use the evidence of how the accident unfolded to build a compensation claim.
Obtaining Workers Compensation
Many injured victims who fall off a ladder in construction-related accidents can receive worker's compensation benefits through insurance coverage provided by their employer.
Workers' compensation is government-mandated insurance that offers compensation if you happen to suffer from a fall from heights-related injury. It also pays for the medical bills and covers some lost wages.
There is a significant caveat for people accepting worker's compensation benefits through their employer's insurance coverage. Acceptance of the benefits forfeits their legal right to sue their employer for the injury except under extenuating circumstances.
Carefully consider the pros and cons of accepting a workers' compensation that often provides only a meager amount of sum compared to what you can receive in a civil lawsuit filed against everyone responsible for causing your injuries.
A lawsuit can cover lost wages compensation for several years, while a workers' compensation can cover your lost wages for several weeks or months at most. Typically, workers' compensation benefits are stopped once the doctor has released you from their care, allowing you to return to work.
The workers' compensation only pays for essential medical bills and lost wages when you cannot work based on your doctor's. Unfortunately, many workers unknowingly accept meager workers' compensation benefits without realizing that they are forfeiting their free legal rights for an entire lawsuit.
Typically, a personal injury attorney can sort all legal problems, determine if other defendants could be responsible for damages, and assess if accepting Worker's Comp. coverage is beneficial to their client.
Filing a third-party claim against another company, subcontractor, or worker could obtain additional compensation over and above Worker's Comp. benefits.
Falling Injuries and Deaths Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are one of the leading types of serious accidents that leads to on-the-job fatalities. For example, in 2010, falls from ladders caused 14 deaths, while 18 people died due to falls from roofs or walls.
This data refers only to reported accidents, and not all fall-related injuries or deaths might have been documented. The statistics also don't identify exactly how the victims sustained their injuries at a workplace.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) revealed that falls from a ladder are the primary cause of injuries and deaths among workers at dangerous construction sites or their places of employment in general.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that from 1992 and 2010, there were over 11,000 nonfatal injuries caused by falls from a ladder in the United States. The data included 812 fractures, 2,538 sprains or strains, and 987 cases where falling objects struck workers.
In 2012, 3.7 million construction workers and supervisors engaged in work at heights between one and three feet from the ground had a disproportionate amount of injuries compared to those who did not engage in such work.
The leading cause occurred from falling from a ladder which accounted for just over half of these injures. In contrast, 7.5% of injuries were due to falls from roofs or walls. In comparison, 6.4% of the injuries were due to slips or trips.
The same study found only 47% of those who sustained an injury due to a fall from a ladder received medical treatment for their injuries. On the other hand, half did not receive any treatment whatsoever.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also found 1,406 fatalities caused by falls from a ladder in the construction industry during 2012. Over 50% of these fatalities happened to people who were 65 years of age or older. Statistical trends show that the elderly are more susceptible to severe injuries and death caused by a fall from a height.
What Increases the Risk of a Worker Falling?
Several factors could cause an employee to fall off a ladder while working on a construction site or in a place of employment. These include lack of equipment, faulty or insufficient safety gear, and failure to follow the correct safety procedures.
The lack of safety equipment is one common factor cited by many people who work at heights. For example, according to OSHA, improper scaffolding can cause an employee to fall from heights as its incorrect design may fail to support the weight of workers or could even collapse under pressure.
Another common factor is the absence of appropriate safety gear like harnesses, which can help prevent an employee from falling from heights at a site. OSHA regulations mandate that employers equipped workers with proper safety gear when working at dangerous heights.
If employees work in areas too high for traditional scaffolds and fall protection equipment used by most workers on construction sites, this results in falls. Any fall with an injury or death could create a liability problem for the employer who failed to follow safety regulations.
Finally, an employee can often slip due to not following the job's personal safety procedures at the site. For instance, it is more common with inexperienced workers who may be less aware of the fall hazards present on the construction site or in the place of employment.
Fall From Heights Lawyer
Construction accidents involving falls from heights are complex. Suppose you or a loved one is a victim of such an accident in a site. In that case, you must immediately seek advice from a professional fall from a height lawyer specializing in such cases.
Your employer may pressure you to accept workers' compensation through their insurance coverage. However, receiving Workers Comp. benefits before talking to an attorney might not serve your best financial interest if you are seeking additional monetary recovery for other damages, including pain, suffering, mental anxiety, and emotional distress or your injuries.
Therefore, it is advisable not to automatically accept workers' compensation benefits unless you have discussed this with a trained and experienced lawyer who has worked on cases like yours in the past. An attorney can review your case's merits, determine if other parties could be sued, and provide immediate legal advice on how to move your case forward.
Hiring a Fall From Height Injury Attorney to Resolve Your Personal Injury Case
Are you the victim of someone else's negligence and suffered serious harm in your workplace? Did a family member die of a wrongful death caused by someone else's fault?
Our workplace accident attorneys can evaluate your case's merits based on medical records, the accident scene, eyewitness accounts, and the severity of your injuries. Call our legal team today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) to use the contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.
We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until we successfully resolve your issue through a jury verdict or negotiated settlement.