Falls off roofs, edges, or through floors are common causes of serious injuries and deaths on construction sites in the state of Washington. When an injury occurs, an injured worker or the worker’s family may be able to recover compensation for personal injury or death caused or contributed to by a third-party, including general contractors, in some cases landowners, or other persons responsible for oversight of the worksite. Because of the complex nature of these fact patterns, it is important to consult with an experienced construction personal injury lawyer if you or a family member sustained a fall on a construction site.
In Washington, construction site safety rules require the use of fall protection systems under circumstances when workers are exposed to certain fall risks. Three different types of restraint systems are authorized by the safety regulations. First, restraint systems that prevent a fall from occurring; second, arrest systems that stop a person after falling; and third, positioning device systems or leading edge systems that keep a person in a certain position and stops the person within two feet of the hazard. Depending on the circumstances that exist, fall protection may be required at four-feet, six-feet, ten-feet, or twenty-five feet.
The Four-Foot Rule. Whenever a worker is going to encounter open-sided floors, platforms, runways, or wall openings and is exposed to a risk of falling more than four feet, a fall restraint system is required. WAC 296-155-505(6)(a). Other common examples when a four-foot rule applies include trenching and excavation work where guardrails are required on walkways that are four or more feet above lower levels. WAC 296-155-655(12)(a).
The Six-Foot Rule. Workers engaged in doing concrete or masonry operations must use a personal fall arrest system, safety net system, or positioning device system when working six feet or more above any adjacent working surface. WAC 296-155-680(10)(b).
The Ten-Foot Rule. Employees engaged in leading edge work and general roofing work must be protected by fall restraint, fall arrest systems or positioning device systems when they are exposed to a fall of 10 feet or more from height. WAC 296-155-24510. In certain instances, warning lines and safety monitoring systems are allowed in lieu of personal fall protection systems. See WAC 296-155-24515, 24520, 24521.
The Twenty-Five Foot Rule. When working on a ladder over 25 feet and doing work with both hands, or wearing eye protection or a respirator, a worker must use a safety belt and lanyard secured to the ladder. WAC 296-876-40040.
Falls Through Skylights, Roof Openings or Floor Openings. Employees must be protected from falls through any skylights, roof openings or floor openings by installing either a standard guardrail system along all exposed sides or a cover that is marked, secured and is capable of supporting at least 200 pounds.
Falls from Elevated Platforms or Aerial Lifts. Workers using elevated work platforms such as aerial lifts must use a safety harness and lanyard device fixed to attachment points provided and approved by the manufacturer of the aerial lift or other elevated work platform. WAC 296-869-20045.
If a company or contractor responsible for oversight of a job site fails to enforce these minimum fall protection safety standards for workers on its job site, it can be held liable for the worker’s injury or death. Our firm offers a free case evaluation to consider the specific facts of your case so that you can decide if you have a valid claim. Contact us today at 206.624.8844.