Recently, many debates have taken place on the importance of the New York Scaffold Safety Law. There are a lot of advocates on both sides, and there are debates about money and insurance. It is challenging to navigate arguments instantly, which helps avoid an obvious problem. At Gorayeb & Associates, we believe that anything keeps employees safe and that employers must maintain safe workplace conditions. It must first be explained for an overview of what Scaffold safety laws mean. This is not an individual statute but a section within the New York Labor Code section 240.
New York Labor Law 240
The New York Scaffold Safety Law, also known as “Labor Law 240,” is one of the most stringent scaffold safety laws in the United States. It protects workers injured by falls. Work will be done on structures that can be legally referred to as buildings, and the construction site can also be a boat bridge, garage, subway tunnel, or tower. It also focuses on construction tasks in general.
The law imposes specific responsibilities on property owners, contractors, and employers involved in construction projects to protect construction workers from falls and scaffold-related accidents. Its primary objective is to ensure the safety, health administration, and well-being of construction workers who perform tasks at elevated heights. The construction company should supply protective equipment for all people working on their construction projects.
The Dangers of Scaffolding
There are many different types of scaffolding, but they all have the potential to cause injuries. The most common type of scaffold injury is a fall. Falls from scaffolding can be fatal and often result in serious injuries, such as broken bones, head injuries, and spinal cord injuries.
Other types of scaffold injuries include:
- Being struck by falling objects
- Being caught in between two scaffolds
- Being crushed by a collapsing scaffold
Scaffold injuries can occur to anyone who works on or around scaffolding, but some workers are at a higher risk of gravity-related injuries than others. The workers who are most at risk for scaffold injuries include:
- Maintenance workers
- Window washers
These workers are at a higher risk because they are often required to work on scaffolding at heights. They are also at risk because they may be working with tools and materials that can be dangerous if not correctly used.
The History of the Scaffold Law
The New York Scaffold Law was enacted in 1885 as a response to the increasing number of scaffold-related injuries and fatalities. During that time, no federal or state regulations were in place to ensure proper protection for scaffolding worker safety, leaving employers with little accountability for their workers’ well-being.
This landmark legislation, known as the Scaffold Law, played a significant role in reducing scaffold-related incidents. It mandates employers provide secure scaffolding for workers and ensures its proper use. Additionally, employers were required to furnish workers with safety equipment like guardrails, toeboards, and safety nets.
The Scaffold Law has been widely recognized for saving countless lives. Since its implementation, the number of scaffold-related injuries and deaths in New York has significantly declined. However, critics argue that the scaffolding law has driven up construction costs.
The Scaffold Law Today
The New York Scaffold Law remains in effect today and is regarded as one of the strictest scaffold safety laws in the United States. It reduces scaffold-related injuries and deaths, albeit with accompanying concerns about construction expenses.
The law applies to all construction work involving scaffolding. Employers must provide safe scaffolding at construction sites and ensure its proper usage. Employers must also supply workers with safety equipment, such as guardrails, toeboards, and safety nets.
Suppose a worker sustains injuries from a fall from scaffolding. In that case, the employer or property owner may be held liable under the Scaffold Law, irrespective of whether the worker was wearing safety equipment or adhering to occupational safety and protocols. The employer or property owner may be responsible for covering the worker’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Absolute Liability on Scaffolding Law
The Scaffold Safety Law strongly emphasizes the concept of “absolute liability.” Property owners and contractors are held fully responsible for any injuries or accidents due to inadequate safety measures, regardless of whether the worker contributed to their injury or was entirely at fault for the job injuries. This provision of labor law aims to shift the burden of ensuring a safe working environment onto those responsible for the construction project.
Here are some additional details about the scope of the Scaffold Law:
- The law applies to any scaffolding used in construction work. This includes scaffolding to access roofs, walls, and other elevated areas.
- The law applies to all types of construction work, regardless of the size or scope of the project. This includes new construction, renovation, and demolition projects.
- The law applies to both public and private construction projects. This means that the law applies to construction projects that are owned and operated by the government, as well as construction projects that are owned and operated by private businesses.
- The law does not cover injuries incurred while using scaffolding for recreational purposes. This means the law does not apply to injuries incurred while rock climbing, zip-lining, or other recreational activities involving scaffolding.
The Scaffold Law is complex, and it is crucial to be familiar with it if you are involved in building or construction work. If you have any questions about the scaffolding law here, consult our attorneys at Gorayeb & Associates.
Enforcement of the Scaffold Law
The New York State Department of Labor has a team of inspectors responsible for conducting job-site visits to various contractors to ensure compliance with the Scaffold Law.
During a site visit, inspectors will look at the construction site for a variety of safety hazards, including:
- Scaffolding that is not adequately erected or maintained
- Scaffolding that is not equipped with guardrails or other safety devices
- Workers who are not using proper safety equipment
If an inspector finds a violation of the Scaffold Law, they may issue a citation to the employer. Citations can be financially burdensome for employers, with fines ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
In addition to fines, employers violating the Scaffold Law may be required to cover the injured worker’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Criticism of the Scaffold Law
The Scaffold Law, known for its strict scaffold safety regulations in the United States, has garnered praise for its effectiveness in reducing scaffold-related injuries and fatalities in New York. Nevertheless, it has not been immune to criticism, particularly regarding potential increases in construction costs.
Various organizations have voiced their concerns about the Scaffold Law, asserting that it contributes to higher construction expenses, elevated insurance costs, and difficulties securing contracts for minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, taxpayers bear an estimated annual cost of $785 million due to the law. Habitat for Humanity has also reported challenges in rebuilding homes after natural disasters due to the law.
Congressman Faso claims that the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge incurred an additional $200 million due to the law.
In addition, two state congress members have highlighted that the Scaffold Law is the only absolute liability law in the country explicitly targeting gravity-related construction falls. This means that private construction industry companies are liable for injuries, irrespective of whether they took all reasonable precautions.
Given the ongoing debate surrounding the Scaffold Law, discussions and deliberations on its merits and drawbacks will likely persist.
Use of The Law in a Construction Injury Case
In typical construction accident cases, the injured party, usually a construction worker, must demonstrate that the defendant, often the owner or general contractor, neglected their duty of care or acted negligently to seek compensation. Defendants commonly attempt to shift blame and delegate responsibility onto the injured worker, arguing that their injuries resulted from unsafe actions. Consequently, defendants often try to evade liability by asserting that the primary cause of the accident or injury was not their actions but the worker’s carelessness, negligence, or wrongful conduct.
However, the New York Scaffold Laws eliminate most defenses that owners and contractors ordinarily rely on. Instead, liability is established based on a few fundamental questions, including:
- Was the construction project covered under the Scaffold Laws?
- Did the owner or contractor fail to provide the required safety measures, such as scaffolding or other necessary equipment, as mandated by the laws?
- Did the injury occur in a manner that the laws were designed to prevent?
Suppose that on-the-job accidents and answers to these questions are affirmative. If applicable, the owner (and the general contractor) will probably be liable for the accident and resulting injuries, even if the injured workers were not acting safely. As a result, these statutes significantly facilitate the process of injured construction workers and their families seeking compensation for the damages, injuries, and potentially wrongful death that may have occurred.
Seeking Legal Advice for a Scaffolding Accident
If you experience a fall from a scaffold and sustain injuries, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. It is also advisable to consult our experienced construction accident attorneys to understand your legal rights. At Gorayeb & Associates, we can help navigate the complexities of the Scaffold Law and determine if you are eligible for compensation.
Here are some actions to consider if injured in a fall or falling object or from scaffolding:
- Seek immediate medical attention.
- Contact an experienced construction accident attorney.
- Keep records of all medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Document the accident scene.
- Take photographs of the accident scene.
- Gather names and contact information of witnesses.
If you have suffered a fall from scaffolding, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Compensation can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages.
You Might Be Entitled to File a Personal Injury Action for a Scaffold Accident
Construction workers injured by accidents at the workplace can also get workers’ insurance coverage for their damages. While workers may not sue employers under new NY workers’ compensation legislation, they can file personal injury lawsuits. The personal injury plaintiff may also seek compensation for non-economic or financial loss.
An experienced construction accident attorney at the Law Firm of Gorayeb & Associates will advocate for your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve based on the New York Scaffold Safety Law.