This case involves a workplace injury at a residential construction site. The plaintiff was helping to build a deck on the second floor of a new home. In order to traverse the beams, the workers had installed composite wood to walk over but left the panels out overnight. On the evening prior to the day in question, it had rained heavily and weakened the wood. The following day, the plaintiff carried baseboard for the deck across the composite wood in order to start laying the floor of the deck. When the plaintiff was traversing the composite wood, the composite wood broke, which caused the plaintiff to fall and sustain a broken leg, a broken clavicle, and a broken arm.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Should the composite wood have been replaced after the heavy rains, and were additional safety precautions needed?
Expert Witness Response
Since there is an inherent danger in working at an elevated height, there is usually the need for extra precautions to be taken, and there are specific safety measures that construction companies must provide their employees. These safety measures go beyond placing composite wood for an employee to walk across. Generally, because of the makeup and relative strength of composite wood, it is not safe to use it at elevated heights if it becomes moist. In addition to the elevation risk, common practices for a construction site include cleaning up the job site at the end of each day, which usually includes covering and storing all tools and equipment (or at least leaving them in a safe manner). In this case it seems the composite wood could be viewed as equipment that was not stored properly, given its usage and the foreseeability of harm after rain. Furthermore, it probably should have been replaced the morning after the rain. A full review of precautions would illustrate what specific measures were taken, but it appears that the worker has a viable claim against the construction company. I have over thirty-four years experience in the construction industry, and have worked on numerous sites where I had to work at an elevated height.