This is one of the most popular questions our firm receives from clients who've been hurt in construction accidents. It's not surprising, considering falls are the leading cause of construction site accidents that result in serious injury or death, according to the Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that regulates workplace health and safety in the United States.
While many construction site falls are fairly straightforward, others are the combination of a fall and another type of common construction accident, such as a struck by object incident.
Consider the following scenario: a worker at a building construction site falls from scaffolding after being struck by a poorly-installed railing dislodged from several floors above. This incident results in the employee suffering a fractured nose, a brain injury, and a fractured skull that required surgery.
In such a case, who would be liable for the construction worker's injuries and what can the injured individual do to seek help?
Potentially Liable Parties
Who's ultimately determined to be responsible for a worker's construction accident injuries is heavily dependent on a wide range of factors. However, in the scenario outlined above, the following parties could potentially be found liable or share in liability:
- Construction site owner. If an owner oversees a project on their property in a hands-on manner, rather than turning control of the site and project over to a general contractor, they could potentially be held liable for accidents and injuries that result.
- Construction company owner. This employer could be held responsible for workers' on-the-job injuries if he or she failed to comply with OSHA regulations, including those that require employers to provide protective gear and training.
- General contractor or construction foreman. These experienced professionals are tasked with overseeing every aspect of a construction project, including ensuring site and crew safety.
- Subcontractor. While general contractors are responsible for supervising all aspects of a construction job, subcontractors are contracted to complete a specific area as part of a larger construction project. The general contractor or construction foreman is still in charge, but the subcontractor is responsible for overseeing the safety of the work they complete. If a subcontractor did shoddy work when installing the railing in our scenario, he—along with the general contractor—could potentially be liable for any injuries that occurred as a result.
- Architects and engineers. These experts could potentially be held liable for construction accident injuries if flaws in their designs or processes directly led to the accident in question.
Construction Site Fall Protections
According to OSHA regulations, employers are responsible for assessing the safety of the work site and determining if fall protections are necessary. Subpart M, which outlines fall protection requirements for the construction industry, specifically states that employers must provide fall protection for employees who are working at heights of 6-ft. or higher, or who deal with dangerous equipment or toxic substances.
OSHA strongly encourages employers to provide protections to help workers prevent falls of all kinds. Conventional types of fall protection used on construction sites include:
- Guardrail systems
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall arrest harnesses
Additionally, when it comes to preventing construction site accidents and injuries, extending comprehensive, on-the-job training on how to use fall protection devices is almost as important as providing the devices. Some fall protection systems—such as personal fall arrest harnesses— work best when fitted properly. If a worker uses the wrong harness or uses it incorrectly, it may not offer the anticipated safety benefits.
Consult an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney
If you're a construction worker injured in a workplace fall, you may have a lot of questions. Fortunately, the award-winning legal team with McGartland Law Firm can address your questions and concerns, and help you decide if taking legal action is right for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case review.