Falls Through Unguarded Openings and Edges
There should never be an unguarded floor or wall opening on a construction site. Construction sites are busy places and construction workers are busy people. When moving from one place to another while carrying materials or using power tools, it is not always easy to watch what you are doing, watch where you are going, watch out for other workers who are coming and going, and watch where you are about to place your feet, all at the same time. That is why the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act [WISHA] contains detailed fall protection safety standards that require all contractors to guard all floor openings and all open platform edges. Workers have the right to assume that while doing their work they won’t step into a hole in the floor or back off a second story balcony.Floor openings must be covered or guarded at all times
Without exception, Washington State law requires construction contractors to either cover or guard every floor opening on a construction site so that workers will not inadvertently step into a hole and break an ankle, or fall through a hole to a story below and lose a life. Covering a floor opening is the preferred method. Each cover must be secured so that it will not shift off the opening, and each cover must be strong enough to support the weight of the people or equipment that will likely pass over it. Washington Administrative Code § 296-155-24607(2). Alternatively, contractors may place a guardrail and a toe board around the perimeter of the floor opening so that no one may inadvertently step into the opening.Walking surfaces four feet or more above the adjacent level must be guarded
Construction safety regulations also require contractors to provide fall protection whenever there is a walking or working surface that is four feet or more above the adjacent level. Washington Administrative Code § 296-155-24609. In order to prevent workers from falling off a platform, ramp, or other working surface, it is mandatory that contractors protect an otherwise unguarded edge in one or more of the following ways:
- by installing a guardrail system (and a toe board if there is a danger that materials may fall over the edge);
- by installing a fall restrain system;
- by installing a catch net system;
- by issuing and directing the workers to wear a safety harness and anchored safety line;
- by erecting a catch platform; or
- by erecting a warning line 15 feet inside the edge of the platform.
Regardless of the height of any working or walking surface, contractors have to install guardrails and toe boards around the surface if the surface is adjacent to any moving equipment, dangerous equipment (such as chemical vats or heated liquids), or impalement hazards (such as rebar or wooden stakes). For instance, if there is a short concrete ramp that runs up from floor level to the next level only three feet above the floor level, and there is a conveyor belt running next to the ramp that a worker could fall into, a guardrail and toe board must be installed on the ramp.Failure to follow safety rules is negligence
If a construction contractor does not provide for fall protection in compliance with the WISHA safety rules, a construction worker who falls and is hurt likely has the right to bring a third party claim against the contractor.Injured workers should not shoulder all the consequences of safety violations
Falls from unprotected heights frequently cause serious fractures, brain injuries, and sometimes even death. Just stepping into an unguarded hole can cause a severe ankle fracture that can knock a construction worker out of the trade for life. While workers’ compensation benefits from the Department of Labor and Industries will pay medical expenses and a portion of an injured worker’s wage loss, workers’ compensation does not pay an injured worker for all lost wages, for future loss of wage earning capacity or for pain and suffering. The only way the injured worker can recover these losses is to seek compensation from the responsible party – the contractor who should have followed the law and guarded the unguarded opening.
In such cases, contractors and their lawyers often blame the victim, claiming that the worker should have “watched his step.” To the contrary, the worker has a right to expect that all unguarded openings will be guarded. Typically, when a worker falls, it is the contractor’s fault. The lawyers at Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC know this, and will fight to protect the rights of any construction worker who is injured due to an unguarded opening on a construction site.Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC has handled many serious construction injury cases
Over the course of the last 30 years our lawyers have litigated and successfully resolved many cases brought on behalf of construction workers who were injured due to unguarded floor openings and work surfaces, including clients who were seriously injured in the following ways:
- while constructing a multi-story commercial building, a carpenter stepped onto an unsecured piece of plywood covering a floor opening and fell through the opening to the floor below;
- while constructing a big box store, an electrician was installing ceiling light fixtures from a fully extended scissor lift and when he slowly drove into an unguarded floor opening that was not visible from the lift, the lift to toppled over;
- while constructing a residence, a framer was cutting boards with a circular saw, and when he stepped back to pull some slack in his electrical cord, he fell from an open second story doorway meant to lead to an as-yet-unbuilt balcony; and
- while constructing a shopping mall, a steel worker was preparing structural supports for a concrete pour and when he slipped and fell from an unguarded platform and was impaled on a vertical section of rebar.
When a construction worker has suffered a life altering injury, the worker needs expert legal advice from lawyers who have the experience necessary to give sound advice. At Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC we not only know personal injury law, but we know the construction site safety regulations that a good construction injury lawyer needs to know in order to help an injured worker hold a negligent contractor accountable.
We are a Seattle-based law firm, but we represent injured workers from all over the state, in every county and federal court in Washington. If you hire Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC, you will pay us no fee unless we win financial compensation for you!Call now and protect your rights
For a free, no obligation consultation, call Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC today at 206.624.8844. Alternatively, you may email your inquiry to us by clicking here.