Construction Safety Expert Evaluates Fatal Extension Ladder Accident


Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves a plaintiff who was severely injured while trying to attach a ladder to the side of a steel beam office building that was under construction. It was the worker’s first day at the job site, and the building was in the early stages of construction, with the building’s I-beams exposed to the elements. The steel beams had been coated with a protective layer of clear coating that was still drying at the time of the accident. The decedent attempted to place an extension ladder against one of the beams from the ground 20 feet below. As the decedent reached the top of the ladder it slipped on the wet coating, causing the ladder and the decedent to fall to the ground. The man was killed on impact with the ground. It was claimed that the ladder lacked critical safety features, including proper tie-offs, at the time of the accident.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience overseeing construction sites.
  • 2. Are you familiar with steel beams and the proper way to use them?
  • 3. What could have been done differently to prevent this from happening?

Expert Witness Response E-008566

I have a B.S. degree in safety/accident prevention from Illinois State University. I serve as an adjunct faculty member in the safety studies program and also serve as the Chair of the Safety Studies Program Advisory Board at a major university. I am a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), having earned the highest professional certification available. My CSP designations include Construction Safety and Safety Management. I can speak to the standard of care for the general contractor and each individual contractor is defined as a legal matter and as an operational matter. Over the course of my professional career, I have had the opportunity to visit thousands of active construction sites. This includes working directly with numerous contractors involved in the construction of bridges. I have a strong familiarity with steel beams. I have assisted companies in the development and implementation of relevant policies and procedures, as well as associated employee training. It is often the case that alternatives exist to the operations, conditions, tools, and equipment that were in use at the time of an accident. While I do not know the specifics of why this happened in this specific case, it is sometimes true that factors such as cost, access, project timing, and other relevant factors are re-evaluated after a conclusion. A proper job/task analysis completed at any time prior to this accident would have indicated the safest and best approach to each operation. Presuming that an unusually extreme quantity of materials have not been produced in this case, I can guarantee the allocation of adequate time to properly review the materials and prepare a report within a month of assignment. I have provided training on many occasions on issues relevant to this case. This has included fall protection, proper selection and use of equipment, selection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), employee training, job oversite, supervisory responsibilities, and OSHA compliance.

Expert Witness Response E-080757

First off, I have never been around steel beams that were coated on the outside and although it makes sense for corrosion resistance, it is not a standard practice I have been exposed to. Secondly, at a minimum, there should have been another employee holding the ladder at the bottom so it would not slide. If no other employee was available, then the employee climbing should have used a personal fall arrest system consisting of a full body harness and a lanyard or retractable lanyard secured to the form work so he could freely climb the ladder and have protection if he were to fall. Secondly, did he receive new hire orientation training on day one? If not, that was a missed opportunity to discuss the job and violation of OSHA’s training requirements. Also, it is not a good practice to put a new hire on a task alone, even with experience, because situations like this arise all the time where the employee is injured on his/her first day on the job.

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