Know the Risks of Falling from Heights in Construction

construction worker hooking onto guardrail to prevent fall from heights
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No one wants to think about falling from heights working construction, but falls are the leading cause of death on construction sites. And frankly, you don’t even have to fall far to suffer deadly consequences. A tumble from as little as six feet can be lethal.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “construction and extraction occupations had the second most occupational deaths (951) in 2021.” Construction is a dangerous job. However, being aware of the risks and causes of falls in construction might end up saving your life.

If a fall is unavoidable, knowing what steps to take afterward is crucial. The laws in Texas do not side with the workers. Therefore, if you are injured or a loved one was hurt or died from falling from heights working construction, you may need to explore your legal options for compensation.

Patrick Daniel Law can help. Call our experienced Houston construction lawyer at (713) 999-6666 for a FREE consultation.

Causes of Falls from Heights in Construction

Falls are hands-down the most significant cause of injury and death in the construction industry. The first step in protecting yourself from a devastating fall is to know why they are so prevalent. Here, we list the most common reasons for falls:

Insufficient Fall Protection

It is an employer’s General Duty to provide workers with a “safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards.” Yet, even though fall protection in construction is required when working above 6 feet, it is still the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) number one most frequently cited standard.

When working at great heights, it is vital to have dependable safety equipment to reduce the risk of a fall. Depending on the type of work being performed, OSHA requires:

  • Personal fall arrest systems (harnesses)
  • Guardrail systems
  • Safety net systems

These safety systems must meet OSHA’s regulations. Common violations include:

  • Safety gear that is worn, faulty, or doesn’t fit properly
  • Errors in construction (improperly installed guardrails, scaffolding, or safety nets)
  • Inadequate training on the use of fall protection systems
  • Lack of fall protection systems (blatant OSHA violation)

Ensure that fall protection is adequate before working at great heights. If there is still a fall involving you or a loved one, call a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure the incident is thoroughly investigated.

Unfinished Roofs

Unfinished roofs are another major cause of falling from heights in construction. Roofs that are still under construction often present hazards around:

  • Unguarded edges without safety barriers
  • Holes and unfinished openings
  • Slanted/uneven work areas
  • Leading edge where construction is taking place

These hazards are compounded when the proper safety equipment isn’t used or the site is organized poorly.

Aerial Lift Accidents

In the first half of 2022, 11 falls from aerial lifts were reported to OSHA. Seven of those falls resulted in death. Aerial lifts consist of any vehicle-mounted machine used to elevate workers, including:

  • Extendable boom platforms
  • Aerial ladders
  • Articulating boom platforms
  • Vertical towers
  • Or any combination thereof

The causes of most falls from aerial lifts are:

  • Uneven ground (unstable base)
  • Mechanical failures (faulty design or manufacturing, inadequate maintenance)
  • Untrained workers (operator error or lack of knowledge of safety measures)
  • Overloading (excess or poorly distributed weight)
  • Tipping (off-balance load or harsh weather conditions)

Unfortunately, aerial lift accidents can also injure or kill those on the ground below.

Unsafe Ladders

Ladders aren’t any safer than mechanical lifts. Even though most ladders do not extend to great heights, they are considered fall hazards in construction. A worker could still suffer a brain injury, spinal cord damage, or other catastrophic trauma in a fall from a ladder.

To avoid accidental falls, ladders:

  • Need to be inspected for wear and tear or damage
  • Must adhere to OSHA safety standards
  • Should be the proper type for the specific job

Tripping & Slipping Hazards

A misstep, slip, or trip could be fatal when working at great heights. It is imperative that workspaces are kept uncluttered and spills are cleaned up immediately.

Poorly Constructed Scaffolding/Platforms

Workers use scaffolding as a temporary platform from which they can perform their jobs at great heights. Additionally, scissor lifts are considered by OSHA to be a form of scaffolding.

The most common types of scaffolding falls are due to:

  • Missing/substandard guardrails
  • Slippery, uneven, or cluttered walkways
  • Collapse (poor construction or use of substandard materials)
  • Tipping (uneven surface or harsh weather conditions)

Identifying the multiple legal issues involved in a scaffold fall may be difficult. Discussing the accident with a lawyer is always in the victim’s best interest.

Read More: What to Do After a Construction Accident

Types of Injuries Resulting from Falls in Construction

A fall from heights working construction may cause any number of severe injuries, including:

Injuries sustained in a fall may result in permanent disability, impacting the worker’s physical and emotional health as well as their financial well-being. The loss and devastation of a construction-related injury or death will also have an overwhelming effect on the worker’s family. When these terrible falls occur, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can pursue the appropriate compensation.

What Compensation Can You Recover After a Fall Working Construction?

If you are injured in a fall while working construction, you may have recourse to workers’ compensation benefits. However, Texas allows employers to opt out of the workers’ compensation system. When you work for a non-subscribing employer, you retain the right to sue your employer for injuries sustained on the job.

You may be entitled to recover the following damages after suffering an injury in a construction accident:

  • Medical expenses (current bills and anticipated cost of treatment, rehabilitation, assistive devices, etc.)
  • Loss of current and future income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Travel costs (to and from medical care appointments)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent injury and disability
  • Loss of consortium

In the event that your family member has passed away due to a fall while working construction, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation death benefits. However, if their employer is a non-subscriber, you may need to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. The surviving spouse, children, or parents are eligible to do so.

You may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral and burial/cremation expenses
  • Loss of financial contributions
  • Loss of support and services
  • Loss of companionship
  • And more

Falls in construction are far too common. It will benefit construction workers to know the risks and do what they can to protect themselves. Still, employers will cut corners, and accidents will happen. If you are injured or a loved one dies in a fall, please contact a lawyer to ensure you receive the proper compensation for your terrible loss.

Contact a Construction Accident Lawyer Today

Falling from heights working construction is terrifying, painful, and even deadly. Sadly, employers and insurance companies will always look out for their own interests, often disputing claims for fault. That’s why it is essential that you contact an experienced Houston, Texas, construction accident lawyer.

Determining liability in a fall on a construction site is a complex task. Patrick Daniel Law can help pursue all available options for obtaining compensation. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.

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