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Protecting employees from scaffolding accidents

Improper scaffolding practices composed the third leading OSHA violation in 2016, resulting in some 3,900 citations. Every year, employers throughout Illinois and the rest of the U.S. pay out about $90 million in lost work days due to scaffolding injuries. Construction workers are especially prone to these injuries; approximately 2.3 million (or 65 percent) of them regularly work on scaffolds. Out of that, about 4,500 are injured every year. About 60 die.

Employers will want to ensure that they don't have deficient scaffolding. This, combined with falling, is to blame for 72 percent of all scaffold accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Scaffolds should be able to carry their own weight and four times the maximum intended load without displacement. They should not be supported on unstable objects like boxes or loose bricks. For support, they should be equipped with guardrails, midrails and toeboards.

Scaffold accessories, including braces, brackets and ladders, should be replaced immediately when damaged. In addition, scaffolds should be at least 10 feet away from electric power lines. As for suspension scaffolds, a competent person should inspect their rigging before every shift and after every incident that may have compromised the structural integrity.

A competent person should also supervise the building, moving, dismantling and alteration of scaffolds. Employees using diagonal braces as fall protection on scaffolds should be instructed on the hazards.

Even when one follows all the safety regulations, work accidents can arise. Employees who are injured may be reimbursed for their medical bills and for a portion of their lost wages; all they have to do is file a workers' compensation claim. No one's negligence has to be proven, but a claim may be denied on the grounds that the employee was negligent. This is why a victim may want to retain a lawyer.

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