According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, falls are the most common cause of fatalities on construction sites. Even when a fall is not fatal, it can lead to a severe head or spinal injury, often resulting in permanent disability, extensive medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and emotional suffering.
Facts on Construction Falls
The most common type of fall at a construction site is a fall from a roof. Workers who fall from the roof are also more likely to experience a fatal injury than other types of falls. Falls also occur from scaffolding and ladders.
Other construction falls, such as tripping over equipment and falling to the ground, are more likely to result in an injury and not a fatality. Powerline workers, ironworkers, and roofers are most likely to experience fatal falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people die each year from construction falls. But thousands more are also injured on the job from falling. You don’t have to fall from two or more stories to suffer a fatal injury. Falling from even six feet can result in death or a severe injury.
Types of Spinal and Head Injuries
Injuries from construction falls can include broken legs and arms. But more serious injuries involving the spine and brain can also occur including:
Spinal fracture: Construction falls often lead to spinal fractures. Fractures of the lumbar or thoracic spine can lead to long-term complications, such as numbness, pain and decreased range of motion. Spinal fractures may require surgery and months of physical therapy.
Spinal cord injury: Falls can also injure the spinal cord causing various problems including paralysis. A spinal cord injury can involve a bruise on the cord, a partial tear or a complete tear. In some cases, the injury to the cord will cause paralysis. Depending on what part of the spine is injured determines the extent of paralysis. For instance, some injuries cause a loss of lower limb movement. Injuries higher on the spinal cord may result in paralysis of the legs, arms, and trunk. Spinal cord injuries often require surgery and extensive rehabilitation therapies.
Skull fracture: A skull fracture is a serious injury that can result from a construction fall. A skull fracture can lead to bleeding in the brain. In some instances, treatment for a skull fracture may include surgery.
Traumatic brain injury: Brain injuries from a construction fall can be fatal. If an individual does survive a traumatic brain injury, it can cause significant disabilities depending on the part of the brain injured. Long-term effects can include cognitive problems, such as memory issues, difficulty concentrating, and learning problems. Communication problems, physical disabilities, and sensory issues are also common.
Treatment for spinal and brain injuries varies depending on the severity of the injury. Surgery may be required in some cases. Physical, speech and occupational therapy may be needed. Rehabilitation often takes months. In certain instances, therapy and rehabilitation continue for years.
Prevention of Construction Falls
Many construction falls can be prevented by taking the rights steps according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are steps employers can take to decrease the risk of spinal and brain injuries from construction falls.
Planning before starting a construction job is vital. It’s important to determine how a job will be done, what is involved, and what safety equipment is needed. Proper preparation helps workers be prepared to perform each task safely.
Construction falls may also be reduced by ensuring employees receive proper safety training. Also, equipment should be in good working condition.
Employers should also implement appropriate fall protection measures. For example, handrailing, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems should be put in place as needed. Personal fall arrest systems involve each worker on a roof tying off to an anchor and using a harness.
Keep in mind — there may be multiple individuals or entities with the responsibility to provide safe working conditions to construction workers. That may include the general contractor, subcontractors, property owner, architect, or others.
Although many construction falls can be prevented, not all employers take the proper steps to ensure safety. When spinal or head injuries occur, they can result in extensive treatment, lost wages, and even death. If you or a loved one suffered an injury from a construction fall on the job due to the actions or negligence of someone else, we might be able to help. Please call our office at 312-698-3694 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.