Debris Falling on a Construction Site
Were you struck by falling debris on a construction site, or did you lose a loved one through a wrongful death caused by another's negligence? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys represent injured victims harmed in their workplace.
Call our construction injury lawyers for immediate legal advice or representation at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you with our legal team share remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Construction jobs are rated among the most hazardous occupations. The stats from various sources confirm that serious injuries and accidents in the construction sector are quite common and much higher than in other industries.
The hazards of a dynamic building project create dangerous scenarios where a falling object could result in a construction accident.
Falling construction material debris is the second most common reason for most construction site accidents with injuries on job sites. Falling building debris and other various objects dropping from a great height can cause catastrophic damage, severely injuring and killing construction workers.
Debris Falling on a Construction Site
Improperly secured building materials are another common cause of incidents involving falling debris. Construction sites need many building materials such as bricks, blocks, beams, and other objects.
These materials can easily slip or fall from great heights if not properly secured to the ground while waiting for use.
However, most constructions sites lack proper material-handling equipment and workers resulting in an increased rate of falling debris incidents that lead to death or severe injuries among construction workers.
The Hazards of Falling Debris
Falling debris poses severe hazards to the health and life of anyone in its path. Construction workers, contractors, bystanders, and pedestrians are the usual victims of falling debris accidents.
While most cases involve minor common injuries such as cuts, bruises, the damage can be significant if the material or trash is heavy or includes heavy objects.
In catastrophic cases, broken bones, broken skulls, fractures, and even death are common. According to figures from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), being struck by falling debris or objects accounts for almost 8.2% of the total fatalities suffered by construction workers in a year.
As OSHA provides only workers' figures, the data does not show how many pedestrians or bystanders who had nothing to do with construction were hit by falling material. But the figure is expected to be quite high since construction site accidents involving a falling object are quite common.
Reasons Why Falling Debris Strikes Construction Workers
Building materials being dropped by large cranes used to lift heavy objects is another common reason for falling debris incidents. The cranes used in construction sites are heavy and may often have to carry extremely heavy building materials. These materials, including steel beams, bricks, and concrete blocks, can easily slip from the crane's grip and hit nearby workers.
Falling debris on construction sites can be due to several reasons. Some of the primary reasons include:
- Lifting loads that are too heavy, like cinder blocks, bricks, and building materials
- Failure to properly secure a tool or a machine while lifting the load
- Failure of construction workers to follow safety standards
- Neglecting the use of safety devices and procedures that can stop building materials, tools, or objects from falling below
- Breakdown of structural collapse
- Ill-prepared or unsupervised demolition
- Faulty equipment that breaks down mid-air while being lifted
- No clear warning signs in areas prone to falling building materials, tools, and objects
- A worker or pedestrian being present in an unsafe area susceptible to falling materials
- Lack of proper training for workers
- Inadequate securing of a load on a crane
- Using a tool or piece of equipment incorrectly
- Malfunctioning equipment
Also, some of the objects provided by third parties for use on the construction site may be extremely heavy and quite big. These objects can fall from great heights and severely injure or kill those working below when improperly handled.
The wind is another common cause of falling debris incidents. Construction sites are usually located near tall structures that may attract strong winds during harsh weather conditions. The winds blowing very hard can make objects fall from great heights, causing injuries or death to construction workers below.
A poorly secured object is another common cause of falling debris incidents. Construction sites can have a lot of heavy things that are on the move most of the time.
These moving objects may include building materials, cranes, vehicles, trucks, cement mixers, and more. Unsecured objects can easily drop from great heights and cause serious injuries or death to the construction worker in their path.
Types of Injuries Commonly Caused by Falling Debris on Construction Sites
Falling debris can lead to many injuries, some of which can be life-altering or even fatal. The type of injury that one sustains in a falling debris incident depends on several factors, such as the weight and size of an object, the height and speed at which it is falling, its dimensions, and which body part is struck.
Falling construction material injuring workers in construction site accidents could include:
- Broken bones, neck fractures, and spinal cord damage
- Head trauma and traumatic brain injuries
- Severe facial and head injuries
- Skull fractures
- Broken skull
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Permanent injuries
- Quadriplegia, tetraplegia, & paraplegia (paralysis)
How Can You Minimize the Injuries Caused by Falling Objects?
You can minimize the risk of falling debris by taking the following precautions:
Keep all material at least 3-4 feet from the edges, except for the material that you need for carrying out work
- Use tool lanyards
- Don't hang objects over guardrails
- Secure all objects when working over heights or elevated surfaces
- Use toe boards wherever needed
- Use debris nets or catch platforms to catch the falling debris
- Avoid working under moving loads
- Use goggles, or face shields whenever working with machinery that can produce flying particles
- Use barricades and warning signs at dangerous work zones
- Never exceed the lifting capacity of hoists or cranes
- Use nets in areas prone to falling debris to catch the falling object
- Always use hard hats in areas where falling objects are expected and where overhead work is being performed
- Try to avoid working in areas where construction work is performed at heights
- Try to avoid working under cranes or other equipment that is used for lifting objects to a height
- Remove objects such as pens, phones, and tools from pockets, especially top shirt pockets
- Use scaffold at places where it is needed to prevent structural collapses leading to potential injuries
- Always inspect the equipment, tools, and machinery before using it to avoid any loose part falling while working with the tool
Pedestrians Injured by Falling Debris
Most people assume that a construction worker gets injured in accidents involving falling debris, which is also true to a certain extent. But in many such accidents, innocent pedestrians also suffer injuries due to falling objects, tools, and debris.
According to the New York Department of Building statistics, 96 construction accidents involved innocent passersby and pedestrians in New York between 2008 and 2014. These accidents collectively led to 155 injuries that innocent pedestrians predominantly suffered. In addition, there are also incidents where drivers or passengers in a vehicle suffer injuries due to dropped objects or debris.
In 2012, Jack Curley was killed in a construction incident when debris from an old building fell on him while driving in Manhattan.
The number of falling debris incidents has been increasing since 2019. The latest falling debris accident involving pedestrians involved an injured man who was hurt after some metal poles fell on him from a renovated flat.
Any pedestrian injured in a construction accident could suffer from broken bones, lacerations, and other injuries.
Are Construction Workers Required to Protect Pedestrians From Falling Debris?
No specific legislation requires all construction workers to protect unsuspecting passersby or people on the roads or sidewalks from falling debris or objects. But the New York City Construction Code Section 27-1043 requires every construction worker to prevent falling objects from hitting innocent bystanders.
The code states that:
"The employer shall ensure that all personnel is aware of constructing operations taking place in their vicinity including, but not limited to warning signs, barricades, and equipment." "Employer shall take precautions to prevent debris from the work activities from falling, blowing or otherwise being blown on pedestrians and roadways."
The code further states that every construction worker should:
Use all possible methods to prevent material from tipping over, through, or under scaffolding. For example, the workers must use hard hats with face guards, safety nets, and barricades. In addition, use caution when removing material on a scaffold that may fall to the ground or areas accessible to anyone passing by.
Use debris catches and safety nets secured above sidewalks or roads when dropped objects are expected to land in these areas.
The code also highlights that:
All personnel should wear a hard hat while working near any machinery that can produce dangerous flying particles, and all workers should wear a hard hat when working in areas prone to falling objects, tools, or debris.
The code prohibits hand trucks or other moving vehicles under an elevated load that creates slippery conditions on the floor or sidewalk.
In addition to the above legislation, criminal law also charges the construction worker with failure to protect pedestrians from falling objects, tools, or debris.
According to Section 240 of the New York Penal Code, "An employer shall protect a worker from serious physical harm by taking reasonable steps to provide: 1) scaffolding; 2) guardrails; or 3) safety nets."
This legislation makes it a misdemeanor if a construction company fails to take all possible precautions for protecting a passerby from falling objects or debris. This violation is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to one year.
New York Labor Law §240, also known as scaffolding law, is important legislation that protects workers from injuries from falling objects debris. In addition, this law states that employers, contractors, and construction companies are responsible for the well-being of their workers.
They are liable for any falling debris accident that happens from the moment a scaffold goes up and until the project is over. It's also known as scaffolding law and lays down a framework for compensation in cases involving falling objects, tools, or debris.
The statute also includes safety guidelines to minimize the injuries resulting from falling tools and debris. OSHA reports of poorly constructed scaffolds and unsecured material/tools cause catastrophic injuries.
In some cases, the construction worker might not be held liable if they can prove they took every precaution available to protect a passerby who suffered injuries or death by a falling object.
However, a construction worker could be legally liable if they removed an improperly placed beam or plywood piece leading to the falling debris accident without making any alternative arrangement when their decisions caused a pedestrian's injury or death.
How to Protect Yourself Against Falling Debris on Construction Sites
The best way to protect yourself from falling objects, tools, or debris is by taking certain precautions and following basic safety protocols at all times when you are on a construction site. Here are some important steps that you can take to stay safe in a construction zone:
Keep away from the edges of roofs and other high, open spaces on construction sites. If you need to move around the site, make sure that you walk in areas with low visibility so that falling tools or debris will have a hard time hitting you.
Always follow instructions from your supervisor or foreman when they tell you where to work at the site. Ensure that you are standing safely from heavy machinery so that debris will not hit you whenever heavy machinery is used.
Who Is Liable for a Falling Debris Accident on the Construction Site?
Several persons or parties, including the construction company and property owners, could be held liable for injuries caused by falling objects on the construction site. If you have suffered severe injuries in a falling debris accident, then you are well within your rights to seek compensation for the damages suffered. Although, you will need to decide who is liable for the accident.
Several parties can be held liable for falling construction debris accidents depending on the unique facts of the accident. However, the property owners, construction company, contractor, sub-contractor, or construction site workers are responsible for injuries caused by falling objects on construction sites.
Although, other parties such as city governments, governmental organizations, third parties, and equipment manufacturers could also be responsible for a construction accident by proving that injuries caused by falling objects occurred because of their negligence.
How Can You Get Compensation for Injuries Suffered Due to Falling Debris
Were you injured while working in the construction industry? If so, you may be able to get compensation for your injuries from workers' compensation that compensates against injuries suffered at workplaces.
However, the injured employee must sign away their rights to obtain compensation through the workers' compensation program, forfeiting their right to file a lawsuit against their employer. However, a separate (third-party) claim could be filed against the property owner, construction company, or any other at-fault party wholly or partially responsible for damages.
If you are a pedestrian or passersby who got hit by debris while walking on a street, then your options are quite limited. In all probability, you will either get compensation from the liable party's insurer or will have to file a lawsuit against the party liable for the damages.
Naming all potential defendants will help maximize compensation during the negotiation process or at trial to resolve the claim. However, accidents with injuries caused by falling objects can be complicated, requiring an experienced lawyer who has experience in falling debris accidents and who will negotiate on your behalf with the insurer or the liable party.
What You Should Do After a Falling Debris Accident
After getting injured by falling construction debris, the first thing that you must do is seek medical attention and call emergency services. You must also immediately take photos and videos of the accident site, as these images and videos can serve as evidence in a later lawsuit.
Also, try to know the contractor and subcontractor for the construction site, as this information is crucial for fixing the liability of the party responsible for the construction accident.
Once you are done with the above steps, it's time to hire a trained and experienced lawyer who has worked on such cases in the past and knows how to get compensation for victims injured due to falling construction material debris over them in the workplace.
Hire Personal Injury Attorneys to Resolve Your Falling Debris Accident Case
Were you injured on a construction site by falling tools or debris? Did you lose a loved one by a preventable death caused by another's negligence?
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC represent injured victims harmed in a construction accident. Our personal injury lawyers provide legal representation to ensure that the victims or surviving family members receive maximum compensation for their damages.
Call us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.
Our law firm accepts all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until the legal matter is resolved through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.