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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Falls remain the construction worker's biggest killer

A 63-year-old construction worker nearly fell to his death from the scaffolding at a construction site at Auburn University. A piece of scaffolding broke, sending him falling about 15 feet. His head and back were injured during the fall, leaving him in stable condition at the local hospital.

While events like that are shocking, they aren't as uncommon as they should be, and he's probably lucky to have survived. Falls are still number one out of construction's "fatal four," which are the four most common causes of avoidable injuries. The other three include being struck by an object, electrocuted and caught-between accidents (such as those where a construction worker gets crushed to death under the weight of a structure that's collapsing or between moving parts of some piece of construction equipment).

One thing that's important to note about the numbers associated with the "fatal four" types of accidents is that falls accounted for 364 deaths out of a total of 937 in the construction industry in 2015. That's about 4 times as many deaths caused by falls as deaths caused by being struck by an object at a construction site in the same year, which only resulted in 90 fatalities. Falls are clearly the construction worker's number one hazard.

The records provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also provide clues as to why that's so. Of the 10 most commonly cited construction site violations, certain ones stand out:

-- Scaffolding safety requirements, including inspecting them prior to use

-- Fall protection, which includes things like safety harnesses and other proper fall-prevention gear

-- Ladder placement and use, including things like having them securely braced

All three of those issues are likely to be contributors to the rate of falls on construction sites. Other problems include things like workers engaged in solo work in high places instead of with someone to spot them and working on an elevated platform in high winds.

If you've been the victim of a fall on a construction site, you have rights to compensation for your injuries and your lost wages through workers' compensation. If you're having trouble collecting, or your employer is trying to deny your claim for some reason, an attorney can provide advice.

Source: 9ABC wtvm.com, "Construction worker falls from scaffolding at Auburn University," J.T. Fellows, March 10, 2017

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