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How safe must scaffoldings be on construction sites?

Every year, 4,500 construction workers are injured and 50 die due to scaffolding-related accidents nationwide. With a few sensible precautions, Arizona worksites can significantly reduce the likelihood of a construction accident.

Under federal worker safety rules, scaffoldings must meet certain minimum requirements for construction and performance. For example, only a "competent person" must erect scaffolding. It must be built on a solid footing and not on barrels, boxes, loose bricks or concrete blocks.

It may not be built within 10 feet of any electric power lines. Platforms must fit tightly and be made of plank grade material or its equivalent. When completed, scaffolding must support its own weight plus four times the intended load without settling or displacement.

Scaffolding must also be equipped with certain safety features, such as guardrails, midrails and toeboards. Employees who use the structure must be instructed on proper fall prevention. Additionally, following every shift or any event affecting the structures' integrity, scaffolding must be inspected.

Scaffoldings that do not meet these minimum safety standards pose a great risk to construction workers. Employees who notice improperly constructed or maintained scaffoldings, or who are injured as a result of one, should report immediately to their supervisor and seek medical care if necessary.

Normally, employers and employees do everything in their power to avoid workplace injuries. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Any employee who is injured on the job site, whether a construction worker or not, is entitled to workers' compensation for his or her injuries - no matter who is ultimately responsible for the accident.

Workers' compensation normally includes the cost of medication, surgery, therapy, rehabilitation and other related medical care. In some cases, employers or their insurance carriers refuse to cover reasonable costs resulting from workplace injuries. Under those circumstances, injured employees should considered obtaining legal guidance from a workers' compensation attorney.

Avoiding workplace hazards and observing minimum safety precautions are always the best bet. However, when accidents do occur, workers' compensation attorneys can help an injured employee receive all the care they are entitled to under the law.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Worker Safety Series: Construction," accessed on March 15, 2015.

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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C., provides experienced representation for workers' compensation cases in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Avondale, Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson and Yuma, and throughout Maricopa County, Pima County, Pinal County and Yavapai County, and all of Arizona.

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