9 Common Causes of a Scaffolding Accident at Construction Sites in Michigan

Construction work is the backbone of much of today’s society, and sometimes a construction accident attorney at our law firm must come to the defense of workers who are injured in the process of building our modern world. Simply put, we wouldn’t be where we are today without construction workers and their willingness to accept risk daily.

Scaffolding is one of the common sites of construction accident and injury. Let’s examine some of the common possible causes of scaffolding accidents and how they might necessitate the help of a construction accident lawyer or a team of our top personal injury attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C.

1. Poor training and communication

Every employee has a right to a safe work environment. This entails a variety of factors, but one of the most critical factors in workplace safety is adequate employee training.

Situations at height have a way of compounding themselves. Risks from everyday activities, like lifting, falling, tripping, or overexerting oneself, have a chance to worsen drastically when performed at height. Improper training, for example, in lifting heavy objects, becomes much more dangerous 50 feet in the air. The same mistake which, on the ground, might result in one person’s sprained wrist could result in serious injury or death of multiple parties on scaffolding.

Michigan Health and Safety Act 154 Amendment Section 11 states that employers in Michigan are required to communicate workplace hazards to all at-risk employees. Employers must not only provide PPE (personal protection equipment) and post warning signage as necessary, but they must also provide training on how to properly use all the safety and operational equipment on the job site to all relevant employees.

For example, if all construction workers on a site are doing their jobs well, but their employer has failed to provide relevant information and safety equipment, serious accidents can occur.

This would be the employer’s fault, and therefore, it would be the employer’s responsibility to provide compensation and benefits in the resulting cases of accidents and injury. In this instance, a construction worker could turn to one of the following:

2. Overloaded scaffolding

Overloaded scaffolding is a common cause of scaffold failure. As a result, the United States Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) has very clear, strict requirement for how much weight any piece of scaffolding is legally allowed to bear. As they say in their General Requirements for Scaffolds:

“Each scaffold and scaffold component must support without failure its own weight and at least 4 times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it. [29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1)] A qualified person must design the scaffolds, which are loaded in accordance with that design. [29 CFR 1926.451(a)(6)] Scaffolds and scaffold components must not be loaded in excess of their maximum intended loads or rated capacities, whichever is less. [29 CFR 1926.451(f)(1)] Load-carrying timber members should be a minimum of 1,500 lb-f/in2 construction grade lumber. [29 CFR 1926 Subpart L Appendix A(1)(a)]”

In short, every single piece of the scaffold must be able to:

  • Support its weight without any problems, as well as
  • Support at least four times the weight that anyone will put on it

Overloaded scaffolding is one very easy, common way for scaffolding to fail. In that case and according to the law above, a failure of scaffolding due to overloading would be due to:

  • Faulty scaffold design, which would be the fault of the designer and therefore the employing company,
  • The manager or workers on the job site, which would be the result of either improper training, improper supervision, or negligence.

Remember, human beings make mistakes. Even if your work injury is a result of your mistake, you are still entitled to some form of compensation according to the Workers Compensation Act.

In either case, we would strongly urge a construction worker to seek legal help in determining the best course action to receive all the medical attention and financial compensation you deserve.

3. Inadequate scaffold platform construction

OHSA also provides strict guidelines on scaffold platform construction. These are all put in place to protect the work area and to keep construction workers. Some of OHSA’s guidelines include:

  • The definition of scaffold construction requirements
  • Requirements for scaffold planks
  • The maximum deflection of a scaffold
  • A prohibition of scaffold debris
  • The standard required width of the work area
    • “Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches (46 cm) wide, guardrails and/or personal fall arrest systems must be used. [29 CFR 1926.451(b)(2)]”
  • Where guardrails are and are not required
  • Acceptable and unacceptable guardrail material

In any circumstance where an employer in Michigan fails in their obligation to provide adequate scaffold platform construction for their employees, we strongly urge workers to seek the help of a construction accident attorney or, in severe cases, a social security benefits lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C.

4. Poor maintenance

Maintenance is just as necessary as the initial construction process in keeping scaffolding safe for all workers and passersby in Michigan. This, again, goes back to the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees. Scaffolding must remain just as safe at the end of the job as it was at the start of the job. Poor maintenance, which results in, for example, ice, debris, or other hazards on scaffolding platforms often results in accidents or injury.

As OHSA specifies,

29 CFR contains other standards that apply to construction work such as the responsibility to initiate and maintain programs [29 CFR 1926.20(b)(1)]; exposures to dusts and chemicals [29 CFR 1926.33, 29 CFR 1926.55, 29 CFR 1926.59, 29 CFR 1926.62, and 29 CFR 1926.1101]; hand and power tools [29 CFR 1926.300-1926.307]; electrical [29 CFR 1926.400-1926.449]; personal fall arrest systems [29 CFR 1926.502]; and ladders [29 CFR 1926.1050-1926.1060].

In other words, your employer should be following strict guidelines for the strict control maintenance of:

  • Dust and chemical exposure on scaffolding
  • All hand and power tools in use
  • The electrical systems at use on the job site
  • Harness, tethers, webbing, and anything else used to protect individuals from falls
  • Ladders

Knowing your employer’s maintenance responsibilities can help you as a worker know if they’re actively preventing some of the common causes of scaffolding failures in Michigan.

5. Fall protection failure

Fall protection is a highly crucial important aspect of safety when working at height. Employee falls have resulted in much of the construction work legislation and the Common Area Work Doctrine that Michigan has today, and for good reason: Inadequate fall protection or poor use of fall protection has caused problems.

Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs states that employers are legally required to provide employee fall protection. Generally speaking, if a scaffold is higher than 6 feet, fall protection is necessary.

Here are some situations that legally necessitate scaffolding fall protection:

  • Holes in the scaffolding
  • Ramps
  • Unprotected edges and sides
  • Hoist areas near, in, or next to scaffolding
  • Anywhere where workers are laying bricks or conducting similar tasks
  • Residential construction, especially where pedestrians or passersby could sustain an injury
  • Wherever there is a risk of falling objects
  • Etc

If you have any more questions about specific scaffolding fall protection, refer to the LARA website. Remember, these rules are in place not only because inadequate scaffolding results in injury or death, but also because these instances have gone to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Inadequate fall protection is a very common cause of scaffolding accidents and, if you or someone you know has been injured due to this reason, a workers’ compensation attorney at our law firm can help you understand your rights and provide guidance through the extensive legalities surrounding this issue.

6. Machinery misuse or failure

Again, working at height can turn any issue that would have been a minor problem on the ground into a major problem in the air. Machinery misuse, therefore, can result in issues that might affect the structure of the scaffolding. It’s once more the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the design, building, and use of the scaffolding is appropriate, as well as ensuring that all employees know how to use the machinery their tasks necessarily entail.

Employers are also responsible for ensuring that all machinery is tested and up to date as required by Michigan law. This is an entirely separate issue from scaffold building and maintenance, but one that comes into play in ensuring employee safety while working at height.

Failure to monitor or manage machine usage in this way, or to mitigate the potential consequences of machinery failure, is generally the employer’s fault. If you suspect that your injury could be due to machinery misuse or failure, but aren’t sure where to turn, contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. for a free case evaluation and consultation. They can help you understand the laws behind machinery usage and employer responsibility, which can, in turn, help you know your rights.

7. Unsafe welding

One specific example of general machinery misuse is unsafe welding. Welding inherently involves machinery and a lot of heat to bind or fasten metal objects together.

Both OHSA and LARA have specific guidelines for safe welding. Unsafe welding can wreak havoc on a construction site, especially one that involves scaffolding.

8. Inadequate access and guardrails

When it comes to machinery and fall protection, a lot of scaffolding failure could be solved by adhering to codes of access.

The state of Michigan has strict laws for what constitutes safe access ways. All employees should be well-trained on this subject. Their local union and/or employer should have provided adequate and comprehensive training on what constitutes safe scaffolding access, which should, in turn, enable them to spot and call out unsafe access situations.

It may be useful to note that there are specific legal requirements for:

  • Runways and ramps
  • Guardrails and restraints on scaffolding and platforms
  • Temporary stairways
  • Stairways
  • Etc

The amount of legal regulation surrounding construction sites is often overwhelming. While employees should know their rights and receive proper training, it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to memorize long lists of legal data. That’s why it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe work environment. Equally, that’s why top personal injury lawyers are available at our law firm in instances of employer irresponsibility.

9. Poor supervision

Many of these issues boil down to the fact that employers are obligated to not only provide adequate training and to work to ensure a safe work environment for all their employees, but they are also obligated to ensure that all managers and supervisors are trained in risk and hazard assessment. This means that construction managers and supervisors must be held to a high standard of safety and responsibility by their employers to keep other employees from harm’s way.

Many–if not all–of the issues described above could be solved with more stringent supervision on the part of a construction company.

This is why a construction accident attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can be beneficial. They can help you dig through the layers of employer responsibility–or, in the case of a scaffolding accident, employer irresponsibility. This can help an injured construction worker identify how an employer’s irresponsibility might have compounded to hurt, harm, or endanger the workers. The more accurately a worker can identify how an employer did not live up to their obligations, the stronger the case is in court.

In turn, the stronger the case is in court, the better the outcome for the construction worker.

This is about justice for you and your family

In short, many scaffolding accidents boil down to some sort of mismanagement or failure on the part of the employer. This, in turn, entitles many employees to financial compensation.

When pursuing compensation for work-related injuries or accidents, it’s important to remember that pursuing justice for yourself is also about seeking justice for your family. If you’ve been hurt by employer negligence, your family and your loved ones also suffer. Not only do you need to be able to afford proper health care, but you also need to be compensated for lost working time.

Additionally, when it comes to scaffolding, in particular, the record is full of many life-altering accidents. Working at height is extremely risky and can result in horrendous injuries. If the worst happens, it pays to know your rights and to be able to protect yourself. These are all critical issues of justice, fairness, and equity.

Find legal help today

If you or your loved one have been affected by one of the common causes of scaffolding failure in Michigan, reach out to us at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Our line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is toll-free. We can help you in your pursuit of health and justice. Call us today at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529). We never charge a fee unless a recovery is made.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she’s not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn’s writing center.

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