Falling Debris, Materials or Objects
A construction worker injured by falling debris, materials, or objects at a construction site should call an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. When mandatory construction site safety rules are followed such “accidents” do not generally happen. On construction sites, objects do not fall from the sky absent negligence.
In 1973, the Washington State Legislature enacted the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act [WISHA]. One of the primary general safety standards set forth in the Act requires each employer on a construction site to “furnish to each of his or her employees a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious injury or death to his or her employees.” RCW 49.17.060(1). The Legislature tasked the director of the Department of Labor and Industries with creating and enforcing safety and health standards for all types of work, including the construction trades. RCW 49.17.240. Since being struck and injured by falling debris, materials, or objects was a long-recognized hazard, the director of the Department of Labor and Industries adopted a few different safety and health standards to protect construction workers at job sites all over the state – in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham, Marysville, Everett, Centralia, Longview, Vancouver, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Yakima, Richland, Walla Walla, Spokane, and every other location within the state’s borders that is not located at a federal facility on federal land.
The primary applicable safety regulation requires employers to place or keep physical barriers between those working overhead – who might drop or cause objects to fall – and those working below. The regulation reads as follows:
“Where work is in progress above workers, a catch platform or other means shall be provided to protect those working below. All workers shall be notified. One completed floor shall be maintained between workers and steel or concrete work above.”
A second applicable safety regulation requires employers to keep all work areas clean so that debris is promptly removed and not left in places where it can be dropped on those working below. WAC 296-155-020(4). This “good housekeeping” standard is repeated in several different safety regulations, the most specific of which reads as follows:
“During the course of construction, alteration, repair or demotion of buildings and structures, employers shall ensure continuous clean-up of their work area, including removal of all rubble, scrap, boxes, crates and excess material to trash disposal areas.”
A third important and applicable safety regulation pertains to the employer’s obligation to safely store and stack materials so that materials cannot fall or be knocked over onto construction workers. The regulation reads as follows:
“Storage of material shall not create a hazard. Bags, containers, bundles, construction materials and other equipment shall be sorted in tiers, stacked, blocked or interlocked. They shall be limited in height so that they are stable and secure against falling, sliding, or collapse.”
A fourth safety standard requires employers to secure or brace all component parts of structures – as construction progresses – to prevent collapse or failure. WAC 296-155-035(8).
Undoubtedly the most important safety regulation meant to protect construction site workers from injury due to falling debris, materials, or objects is the requirement that every employer furnish every employee with a hard hat approved by the American National Standards Institute [ANSI]. Each employer must also ensure that every employee wears a hard hat whenever there is a potential exposure to danger of flying or falling objects. WAC 296-155-205.
The lawyers at Kraft Davies, PLLC have successfully resolved many cases involving construction workers who were injured by falling debris, materials, or objects while working at construction sites. If you or a loved one has suffered such an injury, please call us at 206.624.8844 for a free consultation.