Scaffolding accidents are an all-too-common occurrence in the construction industry. OSHA reports that about 60 percent of construction workers, a total of 2.3 million, regularly use scaffolding. Of those, about 4,500 are injured every year, and approximately 60 die every year. Employers in New Jersey will want to consider the following tips for maintaining safe scaffolding.
The first step is to give the scaffold a solid footing and to never support it with unstable objects like boxes, barrels and concrete blocks. The scaffold should be able to carry its own weight as well as four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement. Scaffolds must have guardrails, midrails and toe boards. The platform must be tightly planked with a durable material.
Employers should designate a competent person to inspect scaffolds, re-inspecting when necessary. Rigging should be inspected before every shift and after any incident that might have affected the structural integrity. This person could also supervise the erecting, dismantling, altering and moving of scaffolds.
Scaffolds can be accessed through stairwells and ladders. Employers should have ladders, in addition to braces, brackets and trusses, repaired immediately after they are damaged. Scaffolds should always be at least 10 feet away from electric power lines. If employees use diagonal braces for fall protection, they should be instructed on the hazards.
Even if employers do all they can to protect workers, this won't prevent all accidents. Fortunately for those who are injured, they may choose to file a workers' compensation claim, which might reimburse them for their medical bills, any short- or long-term disability leave and a portion of the wages they lost during their recovery. Victims won't need to prove anyone's negligence, but employers may blame victims for their own injuries. A lawyer may be able to help a worker through the claims process.