A 42-year-old construction laborer died when he fell 25 feet as he was climbing the cross braces of a scaffold, according to a new report on the incident.
The laborer was new to the trade and had only received informal on-the-job training, the Aug. 29 Washington State Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program report states. He had worked for his employer, a construction contractor, for about five months and had spent two months on the worksite.
Scaffold had ladders, safety hatches
On Dec. 31, 2018, the laborer and two other employees were going to work on the exterior balconies of the condominium complex that was being remodeled.
The contractor had a multilevel scaffold to allow work on the building’s exterior. Ladders and safety hatches were installed on the interior of the scaffold, allowing workers to safely access all levels.
Fell through gap between scaffold, building
Two of the employees brought tools and equipment to the upper levels via the interior ladders. However, the laborer decided to climb up the outside of the scaffold using its cross braces in the 12-inch gap between the scaffold and the building’s exterior.
He wasn’t wearing fall protection since it wasn’t required because the scaffold was within 14 inches of the workface, according to the FACE report.
The laborer retrieved a saw from the second floor level, held it in one hand, then began climbing the cross braces to the next level. As he reached up to hand the saw to a co-worker, he slipped through the gap, falling 25 feet to the pavement below.
Train workers, assess fall hazards
Investigators found that to help prevent similar incidents, employers should:
- train workers to never climb on or use scaffold cross braces for access
- assess fall hazards and the need for personal fall protection, even when it isn’t required
- add scaffold side brackets and planks just below each level of decks to prevent workers from falling through the gap between the scaffold and building, and
- provide one dedicated access point to each deck from the scaffold.