Understanding New York’s Scaffold Law

Abogado Christopher J. Gorayeb

Recently, there’s been much debate about the importance of New York’s Scaffold Law. People hold different views on it, often tied to money and insurance. It’s tricky to navigate these discussions and take an immediate stance to avoid an apparent problem.

At Gorayeb & Associates, we believe in taking action to keep workers safe and ensuring employers are responsible for maintaining safe workplaces. These aspects are laid out in the Scaffold Law, which is why it’s crucial. It’s not just our lawyers’ personal opinion; it’s part of Section 240 of New York’s Labor Code.

Scaffold Law Requirements

The Scaffold Law, officially known as Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, imposes strict liability on property owners and general contractors for specific injuries suffered by workers at construction sites. This law requires that they provide safety equipment, such as scaffolds, hoists, ladders, and other devices, to protect workers from falls and other elevated risks.

Under the Scaffold Law, if a worker is injured due to a fall or elevation-related accident and it’s determined that proper safety measures were not in place, the property owner or contractor can be held liable for the worker’s injuries, regardless of fault. This means they may compensate the injured worker for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

The law prioritizes worker safety and ensures that employers take necessary precautions to prevent accidents and injuries on construction sites. It’s an essential piece of legislation in New York that holds employers accountable for maintaining safe work environments and providing adequate protections for workers at elevated heights.

Hazards of Scaffolding

There are many types of scaffolds, but they all have the potential to cause injuries. The most common type of scaffold accident is a fall. Falls from scaffolds often result in serious injuries, like broken bones, head or spinal injuries, and sometimes even death.

Other types of scaffold accidents include:

  • Being struck by a falling object.
  • Electrocution.
  • Getting caught between two scaffolds.
  • Being crushed by a collapsing scaffold.

Scaffold accidents can happen to anyone working on or near a scaffold. However, some workers are at higher risk than others because of the nature of their jobs. Workers who are most at risk of scaffold accidents include:

  • Carpenters
  • Masons
  • Welders
  • Electricians
  • Maintenance workers
  • Painters
  • Window cleaners

These workers are more exposed to dangers because they often need to work on tall scaffolds. They’re also at risk because they may need to use tools and materials that can be dangerous if not handled properly.

The History of Scaffold Law Regulations

The New York Scaffold Law was established in 1885 in response to increased injuries and deaths caused by scaffold accidents. At the time, no federal or state regulations ensured proper protection for scaffold workers, leaving employers with little responsibility for their employees’ well-being.

This legislation was crucial in reducing such incidents. It mandates that employers ensure a safe working environment on scaffolds for their employees and provide workers with safety equipment like handrails, toe boards, and safety nets free of charge.

The Scaffold Law has been widely praised for saving countless lives. Since its implementation, the number of injuries and deaths from scaffold accidents in New York has significantly decreased. However, some critics argue that the Scaffold Law has raised construction costs.

Scaffold Safety Law: Now

The New York Scaffold Law is still in effect today and is recognized as one of the strictest scaffold laws in the United States. Despite companies’ concerns about increased expenses, this law reduces scaffold accidents. It applies to all construction industry work involving scaffolds.

Imagine a worker getting injured from falling off a scaffold. Under the Scaffold Law, the employer or property owner can be held responsible regardless of whether the worker uses protective equipment or follows safety protocols. The employer or property owner must cover medical expenses, lost wages, and all costs related to the victim’s pain and suffering.

Latest Scaffold Law Reform

Significant recent legislative action regarding Scaffold Law reform has yet to be taken. However, discussions about potential reforms have been ongoing for years, with various stakeholders expressing different viewpoints.

Reform proponents argue that the Scaffold Law imposes strict liability on property owners and contractors, leading to higher construction costs and insurance premiums. They propose changes to the law to introduce a comparative negligence standard, which would consider the actions of both workers and employers in scaffold accidents.

Conversely, advocates for worker safety emphasize the importance of maintaining the Scaffold Law in its current form. They argue that any changes to the law could weaken protections for workers and increase scaffold-related injuries and fatalities.

Overall, Scaffold Law reform remains a contentious issue in New York, with debates continuing between proponents and opponents of potential changes to the law. Any updates or reforms would likely involve careful consideration of the interests of both workers and employers in the construction industry.

Scaffold Law Liability

The Scaffold Law strongly emphasizes the concept of strict liability. Property owners and contractors are held accountable for any injury or accident resulting from inadequate safety measures, regardless of whether the worker contributed to the situation or if it was entirely their fault. This law ensures that those in charge of construction projects are responsible for providing a safe workplace.

Here are some additional details about the Scaffold Law:

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  • The law applies to any scaffold used in construction work, including those accessing roofs, walls, or other elevated areas.
  • It covers all types of construction work, regardless of the project’s size, including new constructions, renovations, and demolition projects.
  • The law applies to private and public construction projects, meaning it regulates government-owned projects and those owned by private businesses.
  • The law does not cover injuries occurring while using a scaffold for recreational purposes. This means it doesn’t apply to injuries sustained during rock climbing, zip-lining, or any other recreational activity involving a scaffold.

Understanding the Scaffold Law is crucial, primarily if you work in construction. If you have any questions about New York’s Scaffold Law, don’t hesitate to consult Gorayeb & Associates’ lawyers.

Strengthening the Construction Scaffold Law

The New York Department of Labor has a team of inspectors tasked with visiting various contractors to ensure compliance with the Scaffold Law.

During these visits, inspectors will assess the construction site to identify a range of hazards, including:

  • Scaffolds that needed to be adequately erected or lacked maintenance.
  • Scaffolds that are not equipped with handrails or other safety features.
  • Workers are not using appropriate safety equipment.

If an inspector finds any violations of the Scaffold Law, they may issue citations to the employer. These citations can result in significant financial losses for employers, with fines ranging from several hundred to many thousands of dollars.

In addition to fines, employers who violate the Scaffold Law may be required to cover the medical expenses of any injured worker, their lost wages, and all aspects of pain and suffering (such as any emotional or psychological distress resulting from the accident, like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder).

Criticism of the New York Scaffold Law

The Scaffold Law, known for its strict safety regulations in the United States, has been recognized and appreciated for its effectiveness in reducing injuries and fatalities related to scaffold accidents in New York. However, it has not been immune to criticism, mainly due to increased construction costs.

Various organizations have expressed concerns about the Scaffold Law, arguing that it contributes to higher construction costs, increased insurance expenses, and difficulties securing contracts for minority or women-owned businesses.

According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, citizens are estimated to pay $785 million annually in taxes due to this law. Habitat for Humanity has also reported the challenges of rebuilding homes after natural disasters because of this law.

Congressman John Faso revealed that the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge required an additional $200 million due to the Scaffold Law.

Additionally, other groups of contractors, property owners, and construction companies have voiced opposition to these laws, which they consider outdated. They argue that these laws shift responsibility away from workers for their accidents. This means that private construction companies are held responsible for these injuries even if they have taken all preventive measures.

Despite all the debate surrounding the Scaffold Law, it’s undeniable that its existence has positively impacted worker safety.

Using the NYC Scaffolding Law in a Construction Accident Case

In a typical construction accident case, the injured party, usually a construction worker, must prove that another person, typically the owner or general contractor, was negligent in their actions, leading to the injury, and seek compensation. Defendants often try to shift blame and responsibility onto the injured worker, arguing that their injuries resulted from careless actions. Consequently, defendants try to evade responsibility by claiming that the primary cause of the accident was not their actions but rather those of the worker.

On the other hand, New York’s Scaffold Law eliminates most defenses that owners and contractors can present. Instead, liability is established based on a few crucial questions, such as:

  • Did the Scaffold Law cover the project?
  • Did the owner or contractor fail to provide the required safety measures and protective equipment as mandated by the law?
  • Did the accident occur in a manner that the law aims to prevent?

Suppose the answer to all these questions is affirmative. If so, owners (and general contractors) will likely be held responsible for the accident and resulting injuries, even if the injured worker did not act cautiously. As a result, these statutes significantly ease the process for injured workers and their families to obtain the compensation they seek for injuries or potential wrongful death that may have occurred due to negligence.

Seeking Legal Assistance after a Scaffolding Accident

If you’ve suffered a fall from a scaffold and have injuries, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. It’s also advisable to consult with our experienced construction accident lawyers at Gorayeb & Associates to understand your legal rights. We can help you navigate the complexities of the Scaffold Law and determine if you’re eligible for compensation.

Here are some steps to consider if you’ve been injured in a scaffold fall or by an object that fell from a scaffold:

  1. Seek medical attention immediately.
  2. Contact an experienced construction accident lawyer.
  3. Keep records of all your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
  4. Document the accident scene.
  5. Take photographs of the accident scene.
  6. Gather the names and contact information of witnesses.

If you’ve suffered a scaffold fall, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Compensation may include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages (which the jury awards in cases that go to trial if they believe the responsible party had the express intent to harm the victim).

You May File a Compensation Claim for a Scaffolding Accident

Injured construction workers can obtain workers’ compensation insurance coverage for injuries sustained on the job. Under NY’s workers’ compensation laws, workers cannot sue their employers, but they can file a personal injury lawsuit. This lawsuit can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic losses.

If you need help with Scaffold Law, an experienced construction accident attorney from Gorayeb & Associates will advocate for you and your rights. Get in touch now! We will pursue compensation for you based on New York’s Scaffold Law.

Abogado Christopher J. Gorayeb

Information verified by Attorney Christopher J. Gorayeb

Founder of Gorayeb & Associates, P.C.

As one of the most preeminent personal injury lawyers in New York City, Christopher J. Gorayeb brings over 35 years of experience in litigating construction accident cases to the law firm.

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