Construction Fall Accidents

Fall accidents are some of the most frequent workplace accidents, with the construction sector accounting for the highest number of workplace falls in the United States.  However, most of these accidents can be prevented by the use of personal fall arrest systems, sturdy equipment, and the promotion of a clutter-free, safe, fall-proof workplace.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, there were 605 workplace fall-related fatalities in the United States.  An additional 212,760 workers were injured in similar accidents the same year.

Fall Accidents Causes

Workers in myriad industries may be at risk of fall accidents, but the core causes of these accidents remain the same across sectors. These are:

  • Slippery floors
  • Cluttered floors
  • Uncovered openings
  • Lack of warning signs near openings
  • Unprotected corners
  • Lack of guardrails
  • Failure to provide personal restraint systems
  • Failure to use personal restraint systems
  • Improper use of personal restraint systems
  • Unsafe ladders
  • Unstable walking surfaces
  • Broken stairways
  • Lack of illumination in stairwells and staircases

Every year, workers’ compensation and medical expenses related to workplace fall accidents cost $70 billion.  There is no doubt that those staggering costs alone are a significant incentive for employers to invest in stronger fall prevention programs and strategies in their workplaces.

Fall Hazards: An Unfortunate Event

A terrible tragedy took place in Winters, California on May 30, 2014. The Sacramento Bee details the tragic death of two construction workers who were working on a bridge construction site. The crane-hoisted basket broke apart, and the construction workers fell more than 80 feet. They fell onto timbers that were covering a 30-foot hole the workers had dug for the installation of the new Winters Putah Creek Car Bridge. The accident that occurred typifies the dangerous, risky work that construction workers often do. They were doing work that construction workers often perform, but when a person is in machinery high off the ground, tragic incidents such as this event can occur. Investigators from Cal-OSHA, Winters police, Yolo County Sheriff’s Office and Yolo County coroner’s officials are still attempting to discern what led to the unfortunate accident, and their findings may dictate what type of relief the loved ones of these workers may be able to access.

How does workers’ compensation function?

Workers’ compensation issues are still present in this matter, despite the fact that these construction workers died while fulfilling work duties. In general, workers’ compensation attempts to provide payment benefits for workers while they are recovering from injuries. When that occurs, California law provides that workers receive ⅔ of their average weekly salary, although there are limitations based on salary. You can receive more information concerning the salary that an injured worker should receive on the state of California’s Department of Industrial Relations website.

Another type of benefit available for California workers is payment for when a worker is permanently disabled and unable to continue his or her previous occupation. Since the workers died during this unfortunate tragedy, the weekly salary provision is not applicable. Instead, the death benefits, which also include salary provisions, would go toward providing for any spouse, children, or other dependents. In California, death benefits provide for burial expenses and provide for children until they reach the age of majority.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit in a Construction Fall Accident

The investigation of the construction accident is also important because it may dictate another possible claim that the construction workers may have towards a third party. For example, if the investigators determine that the accident was caused by a mistake that one of the constructor workers made, it would make it more difficult to win a wrongful death suit. Generally, in a wrongful death suit, the party must show that negligent or reckless behavior of the party they are suing resulted in the death of a loved one. Typically, a family member or heir of the deceased brings forward a wrongful death suit. In a wrongful death lawsuit, family members may sue for compensation concerning medical and funeral bills, the loss of financial support, and the emotional pain and suffering that the death caused.

Preventing Construction Fall Accidents

Many fall accidents can be prevented simply by using the following strategies:

  • Wiping spills of liquids and grease as soon as they occur
  • Posting warnings signs around openings in the floor or walls, that can pose a possible fall hazard
  • Providing personal fall arrest systems for workers working at elevations
  • Training workers on using fall arrest systems efficiently and effectively
  • Providing guardrails
  • Promotion of clutter-free floors
  • Providing workers safety ladders and stepladders
  • Training workers in safe techniques for climbing up and down a ladder
  • Providing good lighting around stairways, staircases, and other areas where falls are likely to occur
  • Providing workers sturdy, comfortable and high-traction footwear

Overall, employers can substantially reduce the risk of falls in their workplace by establishing a comprehensive fall prevention program that trains workers to identify fall risks and avoid these, use personal protection gear, and follow all safety rules.

The construction accident lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP represent victims who have been injured in fall accidents in the Walnut Creek area and across California.