Falling is the number one cause of construction site accidents.
Lack of guarding systems or lack of adequate guard rails contribute to many fatal falls. During the building of a three-story school in New England, employees were exposed to:
Falls into a 6-to-9 foot deep, 175-foot long excavation that was not fenced or barricaded
Even though there were numerous citations, employees were exposed to falls of more than 6 feet from numerous wall openings on the first and second floor that were not provided with top rails. More ladder safety tips.
Falls of up to 30 feet through a floor opening which lacked a mid rail (once again the company had been cited but the problem was not fixed).
Another serious violation had 10 instances of wire rope guardrails on the first and second floors and roof area that were inadequate because they were insufficiently taut enough to prevent employee falls when pushed in a downward direction. Also these wire rope guardrails on the first and second floors and the roof area were not flagged with highly visible material.
This situation offered many falling accidents waiting to happen. Fortunately, nothing serious did, but the construction company was fined over $40,000 for safety violations, most having to do with lack of guard rail systems.
Has a loved one been fatally injured from lack of guardrails? However, these construction workers were not as fortunate and their falls from lack of adequate or any guardrail systems proved fatal:
- An employee was installing overhead boards from a scaffold platform consisting of two 2" x 10" boards with no guardrails. He lost his balance, fell 7½ feet to the floor, and was fatally injured.
- A laborer was working on the third level of a tubular welded-frame scaffold which was covered with ice and snow. Planking on the scaffold was inadequate as there was no guardrail, and no access ladder for the various scaffold levels. The worker slipped and fell head first approximately 20 feet to the pavement below. More about faulty ladder lawsuits.
- An employee preparing masonry fascia for removal from a building fell from the third level of a tubular welded-frame scaffold. No guarding system was provided for the scaffold. Also, the platform was coated with ice, creating a slippery condition.
- A contract employee was taking measurements from an unguarded scaffold inside a reactor vessel when he either lost his balance or stepped backwards and fell 14½ feet, sustaining fatal injuries.
- A 57-year-old construction worker was killed when he fell through plastic sheeting covering a recently-constructed concrete pit. The footing for the new pit was one foot above ground level and the entire pit was covered with a temporary 2-inch-by-4-inch frame and plastic sheeting to help the concrete cure. The plastic sheeting was opaque which may have given a false sense of security. There was no guard railing around the pit because it was to be covered with a permanent cover of heavy wire mesh within a few days. Employees did not recognize the hazardous condition which existed at this site. No protective zone was being observed at the site by workers who routinely entered the dangerous area. Covering the pit with a wood frame and plastic was not an adequate safeguard. The victim just finished a break and was returning to the worksite. He was following his supervisor walking around a 4-foot concrete footing that was adjacent to one corner of the new pit. The supervisor heard a grunt and turned to see the victim crouched on his knees at the edge of the pit with his arms stretched out on the 2-inch-by-4-inch frames. He saw the man attempt to get up, and then fall through the plastic into the 16-foot deep pit. The man landed in 1½ feet of water in the base of the pit and received fatal head injuries. He died a few hours later at the hospital. Apparently the victim was retrieving something he had dropped on the plastic when he lost his balance and fell forward or he may have slipped on the icy ground and fell. He was not wearing a hard hat.
How could this lack of guard rail fatal injuries be prevented?
Hazardous areas around a pit or dangerous opening should be protected by barricades, guard rails, or at the very least – colored banner tape.
Employees and laborers should be trained in both English and Spanish about the dangers of open pits. Workers should wear hard hats while in areas where there is danger from impact or from falling or flying objects. Construction sites, by law, are supposed to be safe environments. Contractors, construction companies, and other entities are at fault when providing a false sense of security or no sense of security.
If a family member has been seriously or fatally injured by a fall from a lack of guard rail system or a faulty guard rail system – then do not hesitate to contact Anapol Schwartz, Pennsylvania and New Jersey law firms who have found justice for construction site accident victims and their families.