As anyone who’s ever stepped foot on a building site knows, there are potential dangers lurking around every corner/scaffold pipe; so workers and visitors alike need to keep on their toes (and remain ever vigilant) whenever they enter a construction zone.
One of the greatest threats to site employee’s wellbeing is posed by scaffolding, both the ascent and descent of such essential infrastructures as well as the time spent working on or around them.
Don’t take our word for it alone though, as the Health and Safety Executive are equally keen to point out that scaffolding accidents are not what you might call thin on the ground. On the contrary in fact, as between 2014 and 2015 there were 65,000 self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries involving individuals employed in the UK construction industry, of which a figure of 19% accounted for those who sustained their injuries after falling from a height. And you can bet that for ‘falling from a height’ read ‘scaffolding’.
What is scaffolding and why is it so dangerous?
Originally designed and configured in the capacity of a temporary structure which allows building site workers to scale/reach the heights they need to whilst in the process of constructing new buildings (or conversely, carrying out repairs and general maintenance to existing properties), scaffolding is commonplace.
Provided the scaffold has been erected (and used) properly – and that recommended health and safety guidelines have been adhered to by those employees facilitating them – then all is well.
What’s more, a scaffold presents construction workers with a far safer, more versatile and effectively further-reaching means to undertaking building and maintenance tasks than a traditional ladder. In addition to this the creation of a scaffold allows equipment and materials to be carried up to the key elevations on and around a building where they’re required at that particular juncture by the tradesmen tasked with the job in hand. But once again, ONLY when the scaffold system in place has been assembled following best practice and HSE guidelines.
At what point does scaffolding pose a risk?
Given the nature of its use as established above, the very fact that scaffolding is used when the requirement is for individuals to complete the remits of their specific construction roles at heights brings into immediate focus the question of perceived safety.
That’s because any work carried out at height itself poses obvious dangers. Mix into this melting pot the issue of overlooked safety procedure, protocol and practice and that’s precisely when things could go more than a bit awry. And remember, such dangers are not exclusively restricted to the vocationally-ordered movements of construction workers getting to grips with scaffolding either, as there’s also the safety of visitors and passers’ by (and other unwitting members of the public too) to consider at all times.
Along with those workers on the scaffold, there’s the potential threat of equipment falling from the structure and striking people beneath the framework at the time; which also represents a clear and present danger.
How to ensure that scaffolding DOESN’T pose a serious threat to both workers and the general public
According to experts it’s imperative that scaffold and its associated platforms MUST be assembled and fixed together by what they describe as experienced professionals, skilled in the use of piecing such large frameworks together and with the correct components each time.
Believe it or not, there have been instances when incompatible parts have been used which of course can (and will) result in subsequent collapse of the construct. And it’s worth bearing in mind that even a partial collapse of a scaffold can directly result in serious injuries to anyone in the vicinity, not just those operatives completing their tasks on the scaffold.
Elsewhere loose boards or hand rails can, understandably, trigger falls which lead to workers injuring themselves and/or others, whilst even the fitting of a wrong sized (or damaged) bolt in one corner of a floorboard/platform for example can, hypothetically instigate a collapse of part (if not all) of the assembled structure. Effectively just the one, seemingly small mistake can compromise the integrity of an entire scaffold.
How to safeguard the wellbeing of scaffold workers and members of the public in this case
From a worker perspective it’s imperative that all employees wear the PPE-regulated clothing stipulated on any form of site safety guide, including that most important piece of kit, the hard hat. And again, any visitors to a construction site MUST comply with personal protective equipment protocol and be suitably kitted out before entering the site proper.
In terms of keeping the public out of harm’s way, then where possible no unauthorised people should ever be allowed to wander freely on a building site, while should the scaffold be erected in an accepted public area then warning signs should be visible and cordoned off areas should be imposed to deter people from being in the vicinity of the scaffold.
Failure to undertake any of the abovementioned actions may well lead to prosecution in the event of a scaffolding accident playing out, which will entitle victims to make justifiable personal injury claims thereafter.
What are the most common injuries caused by scaffolding accidents?
In a broader sense of injury types, slips, trips and falls are the most common types of injuries that befall victims of scaffolding accidents.
However there’s much more to consider than that, with scaffold accidents often leading to lacerations (due to exposed/protruding metal edges), head injuries (which can cause brain injuries), fractured and broken bones (consistent with falling from a height), back injuries or alternatively being struck by falling objects. And you can never rule out the probability of fatalities depending on the severity of the individual circumstances surrounding certain incidents.
Are there any employment laws in place for both employers and employees to be aware of regarding scaffolding?
Predominantly there are three pieces of legislation which anyone working on a scaffold (and their employers/site operators) should be well aware of, and moreover follow to the letter from the outset of any contracts.
Although there are numerous laws which are set out to protect individuals from harm whilst employed in the workplace, the following three key laws/legislative regulations are recognised in the sector as being the most relevant;
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 – Stipulating that all employers who require their staff to work at height must ensure that adequate training is given and that the work is planned carefully in advance.
The employer must conduct risk assessments and ensure that any equipment is stringently maintained and in full working order
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – Again, a particular emphasis is placed on the provision of equipment used by workers being appropriate for the nature of the jobs being undertaken are moreover are fully functional.
Also highlights the vital importance that any workers expected to operate the equipment must be fully trained in its use and must have been issued with any necessary protective clothing
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 – Employees must be supplied with any protective clothing (or equipment) necessary to keep them safe whilst carrying out their duties. That equipment must be maintained and fit for purpose.
The clothing or equipment must be properly stored to prevent damage and all workers must be instructed into the proper use of the protective clothing and equipment
What types of scaffolding accident can I make a claim for?
Depending on individual sets of circumstances which will need to be taken into account by a personal injuries claim specialist, it may well be that you’re entitled to file a claim for compensation if it’s proven that your employer/a third party is liable for the injuries which you sustained as a result of perceived negligence/actions of a legally responsible party.
In terms of highlighting just what issues may be covered by a claim, then the following examples will afford you a better idea;
- Inadequate safety procedures
- Weak planking
- Insecure or non-existent bracing
- Insufficient on-the-job training
- No protective gear issued or worn on the job
- Injuries caused due to falling loads
Injuries that are caused due to scaffolding accidents can vary tremendously, from bruises and lacerations to fractures, head and brain injuries or even fatalities as we mentioned earlier. Any of these injuries could result from unprotected sharp edges, falling objects, falling from the scaffolding or scaffolding collapse.
How to make a claim for compensation
As we’ve already alluded to, should you have sustained an injury in a scaffolding environment/scenario while at work that wasn’t your fault, then it’s more than possible that you’ll find yourself in a favourable position to pursue a personal injury claim through a solicitor/claims specialist practising in this area.
However it’s also important to acknowledge that there are time limits imposed on how long after the accident you will be able to make a claim, so it is important to seek legal advice at your first convenience.
To start your claim, or to find out more information, get in touch with CL Legal today: