The use of temporary scaffolds is essential in both commercial and residential construction and remodeling. However, due to their temporary nature, scaffolds are also involved in a large number of on the job injuries in the construction industry. Sadly, many of these injuries could have been prevented if more attention had been devoted to scaffolding safety issues.
In this post the scaffolding accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will use a recent scaffolding accident death in New Hampshire to illustrate some of the situations that workplace safety agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) routinely encounter during routine onsite inspections and in accident investigations.
How the Accident Happened
Thirty-three-year-old Derek Goldsmith, an employee of Jancewicz & Sons Roofing of Bellows Falls, Vermont, died on September 22 nd of this year after falling from scaffolding at a residential job site in Hanover, NH.
According to a story published in the Eagle Times of Claremont, NH, there were unconfirmed reports that several employees of Jancewicz and Sons Roofing had told investigators that the scaffolding from which Goldsmith fell had been improperly erected.
The same story also noted that the parent company of Jancewicz & Sons Roofing, Home Improvement Company of Vermont, had been cited by the Vermont office of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration just days prior to the Hanover accident regarding an inspection of a work site in Woodstock, Vt. on April 10, 2018.
Apparently quoting from the “Citation and Notification of Penalty” issued to Jancewicz & Sons Roofing / Home Improvement Company of Vermont, the Eagle Times reported that the OSHA inspector observed several “serious” violations of OSHA regulations, such as:
“Employees were allowed to erect several multi-level scaffolds without being under the supervision of a competent person.”
OSHA recommends that scaffolding should only be assembled by an experienced work crew and under that the erection should be under the supervision of an individual with several years of experience in scaffolding work and, preferably, training in scaffolding safety issues.
“Employees set up several towers of scaffold some did not bear on mudsills.”
Scaffolding must be erected on a firm surface that is not affected by rain, snow, or changes in temperature.
“Employees were working on the top level of a multi-tiered scaffold that did not have a guardrail system on all open sides.”
If a guardrail is not present, an employee is at risk of falling while changing position on a scaffold.
“Employees were allowed to erect and work on a scaffold that had energized electric entrance cables running through the scaffold. They did not adhere to the minimum clearance of 3' or have the lines de-energized or have protective coverings installed to prevent accidental contact.”
Scaffolding should never be erected close to a live electric power cable, much less around such a “hot” line due to the danger of fire and/or accidental electrocution or workers. If it is impossible to avoid electrical lines, the power feeding such lines must be interrupted before scaffolding is erected, in use, or being taken down.
“Employees were allowed to use a step ladder for a purpose for which it was not designed” and “Employees were allowed to set up and use an extension ladder that was not kept clear at the bottom.”
Both ladders and scaffolds are potentially unstable, particularly when ladders use scaffolding as a base. For that reason, OSHA takes a very critical view of using ladders and scaffolding together, even if only for a short time to accomplish a specific task.
Legal Implications of the Case
It must be noted that simply because Jancewicz & Sons Roofing / Home Improvement Company of Vermont had been cited for safety violations immediately prior to Goldsmith’s death, it does not imply that he died as a result of an unsafe work environment. Such a conclusion can only be arrived at following a comprehensive review of the facts related to this accident by the appropriate investigation agencies.
We will continue to monitor future developments in this case and will pass them along as they become available. In the meantime, we invite those wanting to learn more about scaffolding accidents to visit us at The Doan Law Firm Scaffolding Accident homepage.