Firm-Wide blog

Can Construction Sites Ever be Safe?

By Burg Simpson
November 14, 2017
4 min read

In June 2015, not long after graduating from high school, Highlands Ranch teenager Sampson Briggs was still learning the ropes at his summer roofing job. At some point during his shift, Briggs stepped back and right off the roof of his school – where he was working – and fell 30 feet to the ground below. Briggs landed on his head and face, suffering a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones, including a depressed skull fracture and a broken mandible.

The doctors seemed pessimistic about Briggs’ chances right after he arrived in the intensive care unit at Littleton Adventist Hospital.

“[Doctors] told my parents, it may be time to say goodbye to your son,” Briggs recalled. “They told my family they didn’t know if I would be able to read, walk, talk, write, let alone live.”

Briggs pulled through, but it would be a long road back. Briggs would endure nearly a dozen surgeries and spend months in recovery and rehabilitation – all of which could have been prevented with just a little safety training and a simple harness.

Have you been hurt at work and been left wondering what your next steps should be? Speak with a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney to help you figure out your best course of action.

No Deadlier Place to Work

While workplace deaths are down overall in Colorado, construction worker deaths are on the rise. According to the latest numbers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 75 workers died on the job in 2015, down from 84 deaths the year before. Construction worker deaths, however, jumped more than 60 percent, hitting a seven-year high.

Although experts disagree on the specific reasons behind the sudden surge in construction worker fatalities, most concede that the industry overall is so much more dangerous than most because of a lack of leadership when it comes to safety, not enough training for workers, and rampant equipment failures. All too often, companies cut corners on safety and their workers end up paying the price.

As tragic as Briggs’s story is, it is an all-too-common one when it comes to construction workers. Falls are one of the leading causes of construction site fatalities. Too many job sites have little to no fall protection systems in place, which are required by law on areas with unprotected sides that are higher than six feet above the next lower level.

Scaffolding, used on nearly every construction job site, can presents risks, too. In fact, roughly two-thirds of construction workers spend their days on scaffolding, which inherently poses a fall risk. But scaffolding does not have to be dangerous.

Worksite Safety Precautions

So what can be done to make construction workers safer, especially when it comes to preventing devastating falls?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “using guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems can prevent many deaths and injuries from falls.” OSHA also recommends that employers:

  • Use aerial lifts or elevated platforms to provide safer elevated working surfaces.
  • Erect guardrail systems with toeboards and warning lines or install control line systems to protect workers near the edges of floors and roofs.
  • Cover floor holes.
  • Use safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems (body harnesses).

OSHA also advises greater care and safety precautions when it comes to the use of scaffolding, which the agency estimates would prevent thousands of injuries every year:

  • Scaffolding must be in good condition and capable of holding its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load. It must be erected on solid footing.
  • Unstable objects, should not be used to support scaffolding.
  • Scaffolding must be equipped with guardrails, midrails, and toeboards.
  • Any damaged parts must be replaced immediately.
  • Platforms must be tightly planked with appropriate material.
  • Scaffolding should be inspected regularly.
  • Synthetic and natural rope used in suspension scaffolding must be protected from heat-producing sources.
  • Employees must be aware of the risk of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
  • Scaffolding can be accessed by using ladders and stairwells.
  • Scaffolds must be at least 10 feet from electric power lines at all times.

Construction workers who have been hurt on the job are not in the best position to handle the workers’ compensation claim. Even people in the best of health have trouble understanding all the intricacies of Colorado’s workers’ comp system. If you have been hurt at work, do not wait to reach out to one of Burg Simpson’s Colorado workers comp lawyers. Call 303-792-5595 or fill out our Free Case Evaluation form so we can get started on your claim today.

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