Six workers were rescued by the Houston Fire Department today after a seven-story scaffold collapsed outside the 500 Crawford apartment complex today. The downtown Houston construction project, being constructed by the Finger Companies, was part of an effort to bring housing to the downtown area. Today's massive scaffolding collapse highlights the need for increased safety oversight.
While firefighters are still searching the rubble for any undiscovered victims, six scaffold workers are lucky to be alive. One of the workers told reporters as he was leaving the hopsital that it's a miracle he's not injured.
Although the construction industry has made strides toward reducing the number of accidents and deaths, it's still one of the most dangerous industries to work for. OSHA publishes a list of the industries who receive the most safety violatiosns and penalties. It listed 3 construction industries on its top ten list for penalized industries in 2012. The scaffolding industry was the fourth most penalized industry on their list. 72% of workers injured in scaffolding accidents attributed their injuries to planking or support giving way.
3 Causes of Scaffolding Collapses in the United States
While OSHA has regulations in place to help prevent scaffold collapses and scaffold worker injuries, that doesn't mean there aren't serious risks to workers. The top three causes of scaffolding collapses in the US are:
- Workers weren't properly trained. If scaffold builders and the workers who then work on the scaffolds aren't properly trained, the risk for a collapse increases exponentially.
- Proper procedures weren't followed. If scaffold builders and workers didn't follow proper safety and building procedures, they are putting themselves at risk for injury.
- The scaffold wasn't installed or engineered properly. If an installation error, or even an engineering error exists, the scaffold could collapse. Engineering errors could involve faulty materials, calculations or designs.
For most construction workers, the scaffold is a tool that allows them to do their jobs. It must be reliable and safe, and they must be able to depend on it without fearing for their lives.
Questions About the Houston Scaffold Collapse
Several questions must be raised in light of this accident:
- Were the workers provided with safety harnesses and personal fall arrest systems?
- Were defective or faulty materials used in the construction of this scaffold?
- Did the company who provided the scaffold and who constructed the scaffold have a good safety record?
- Did the workers raise questions about the scaffold's safety before the collapse? If so, did the construction company and the scaffold builder take any steps to fix any safety issues?
Oversight for scaffold building sounds like overkill, but without ensuring that the construction industry is doing everything in its power to build strong, secure, and safe scaffolds, workers are at risk for being injured or killed. Scaffolds are integral to the construction community and the men and women who work on them deserve a safe working environment.