Heads Up: Construction Dangers of Falling Objects
Although some duties occur on ground level, many construction projects require workers to climb, balance, and perform their duties at great heights. Unfortunately, the higher the worker, the greater the risks for those above and below.
Falls are a leading concern for construction workers, as a sudden slip could result in back breaking injuries. However, personal falls aren’t they only danger—falling objects pose a significant threat to both the owner of the object as well as anyone in its path.
Every year, more than 52,000 incidents are reported of people—workers and passers-by—being struck by falling objects in or near construction sites. Many of these incidents turn out to be quite severe, as even something as small as a bolt can become a lethal weapon when dropped from more than 50 feet. Unfortunately, bolts aren’t the only objects that fall; in fact, the most commonly dropped objects are much larger and far more dangerous.
Injuries, Causes, and Effects of Falling Objects
The true danger of a falling object lies in the force in which it strikes. Workers wear protective headgear to prevent injuries caused by minimal forces such as bonking their heads against a beam or being struck by a hammer that fell from a few feet. However, a hard hat can do little to protect against forces greater than a few pounds per square inch. Unfortunately, the physics of gravity tells us that the force of a falling object increases as its height increases. Therefore, an eight-pound wrench dropped from five feet would have an approximate striking force of 50 pounds per square inch. Now, the same wrench, when dropped from 200 feet, would hit with a force of 2,833 pounds per square inch—enough to break bones and crush organs.
Wrenches aren’t the only equipment that can pose a threat, of course. Collapsing scaffolds can crush workers, power tools can slip and cause severe damage, and anything with a sharp or pointed edge can easily puncture or skewer an innocent bystander on the ground. Furthermore, injuries such as serious concussions, brain injuries, debilitating neck or back injuries, paralysis, broken bones, and even death are just some of the effects that can ensue.
Limiting the Risks to Those Down Below
To prevent falling object injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires construction employers and workers to:
- Secure tools and materials. All equipment should be fastened and put away properly to prevent them from falling on people below.
- Barricade hazardous areas and post warning signs. All areas where objects could potentially fall should be equipped with warning signs and blockades to prevent pedestrians from entering.
- Train workers on object safety. All workers should understand the risks of dropping objects as well as walking under potentially hazardous work areas. They should also know how to prevent such accidents by keeping track of their tools and securing them properly.
- Use safety equipment to divert or catch falling objects. Employers should provide necessary equipment that can be used to stop objects from falling great distances, thus limiting striking forces. This equipment should include toe boards, screens on guardrails, or scaffolds debris nets, catch platforms, or canopies.
Unfortunately, even when these safety measures are followed (which isn’t as often as they should be), falling objects still pose a threat—a threat that could cost you your savings, your livelihood, and even your life.
When you or a loved one is significantly injured as a result of a falling object at a construction site, you may be entitled to compensation. If the victim is an employee, an experienced attorney may be able to secure workers’ compensation benefits and personal injury damages. If the victim was killed as a result of his injuries, the incident may warrant wrongful death benefits.
- Workers’ compensation benefits. If the accident occurred during the course of your work duties, you’re entitled to workers’ comp benefits. These benefits can help pay for your medical bills and replace a portion of the income you lose while you recover.
- Personal injury damages. If you were injured by the negligent acts of a co-worker or subcontractor or as a result of a faulty piece of equipment, you may be entitled to pursue a third-party liability claim. This claim can seek damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Death benefits or wrongful death damages. If a close relative (parent, child, or spouse) dies from injuries caused by a worksite falling object, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation death benefits. These benefits can provide you with a percentage of your loved one’s income as well as cover funeral and burial expenses.
For more information on how to pursue a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim, contact our office today. With over 25 years’ worth of experience in these matters, we have the resources and know-how to help you get back on your feet. Allow yourself the heads-up you deserve by securing the support and guidance of someone you can trust—call now!