Personal Injury

Scaffold collapses, killing one Alabama worker and injuring another

A Cullman, Alabama, man died Tuesday afternoon after falling on the scene of a construction site. Authorities said that Kenneth Ball, 51, a contractor and resident of Cullman, was installing a window on the fourth floor of a construction project when his scaffolding collapsed.

According to Cullman County Coroner Gary Murphree, the accident, which occurred around 11 a.m. in the Vinemont area, left Ball with massive head and body trauma. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Another worker who has not been identified sustained injuries when the scaffolding fell and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

To help protect construction workers from falls and improve the construction site safety in general, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a collection of resources related to fall prevention. OSHA estimates that 65 percent of construction workers (approximately 2.3 million) work on scaffolds regularly.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) cites falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma. The majority of falling related deaths and injuries occur within the construction and extraction industries. Last year, 34 percent of construction workers who died on the job did so as a result of falling-related injuries.

“Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year, at a savings for American employers of $90 million in workdays not lost,” OSHA’s website says.

Non-fatal injuries and illnesses, most of them due to falling, are also high in the construction industry, with an incidence rate of about 190 per 100,000 workers (135,350 injuries in 2007), according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

“Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction. However, regardless of the fall distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery,” the Department of Labor says.

To view OSHA’s 79-slide presentation depicting correct and incorrect scaffold assembly, click here.