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What do OSHA and New York say about scaffolding safety?

Nearly 65 percent of construction workers end up on scaffolds at some point in their careers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More than likely, it will not come as a surprise to anyone in the construction business that one of the primary causes of injury for those in the industry is falls from scaffolds, lifts and hoists. Because of the heights involved, injuries are often serious and can cause permanent, life-altering damage.

I fell off a scaffold and suffered serious injuries. Am I entitled to a recovery?

Even when scaffolding and safety equipment are working properly, accidents can happen. New York has what is called "absolute liability" when it comes to injured workers, which means that even if you caused your injury by being negligent, your employer and the owner of the work site may still be held responsible. In fact, construction workers may not even have to be employed by either in order to be entitled to a recovery. In any case, it would be a good idea to seek professional advice and assistance throughout the process and determine whether the scaffolding complied with all applicable laws and regulations, in part, by asking the following questions:

  • Did your employer fail to make sure you were using protective equipment?
  • Did an object fall onto you from the scaffold?
  • Was the scaffold equipment improperly installed, unreasonably safe or defective?

How do you know if a scaffold was properly installed and safe?

According to OSHA, scaffolds must contain the following minimum elements in order to be considered safe. They must:

Conform to OSHA regulations regarding:

  • equipment type
  • methods of construction
  • capacity rating
  • use

Support their own weight, plus four times whatever the maximum intended load is (the scaffold and each of its components)

  • Have suspension ropes that support up to six times whatever the maximum intended load is for each
  • Be built by competent individuals

Once erected, all scaffolding and safety equipment (harnesses or body belts, drop and trolley lines, and anchor points, among others) should be examined prior to each shift by someone qualified to do so. Any visible defects, damage or wear should be dealt with immediately. Defective safety equipment and damaged parts of the scaffolding should be removed from the construction site and replaced with items that are in good working order before work begins.

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