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New York State and its scaffolding laws: protecting workers

The city of New York is a labyrinth of construction with scaffolding covering the sides of buildings throughout the entire 5 boroughs. With so much scaffolding on construction sites, used by window washers, and utility workers it is no surprise there are many accidents involving scaffolding and other types of hoists, ladders, and lifts resulting in injury or even death.

How Common Are Scaffolding Accidents?

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, tells us that there are more than 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths each year from scaffolding accidents.

Causes of serious injury or a fatality stem from scaffolding that:

  • Improperly installed;
  • Defective;
  • Unreasonably unsafe scaffold equipment;
  • Employer's failure to ensure the use of protective equipment; and
  • Objects falling onto workers from scaffolds, lifts, and ladders.

New York Labor Law Section 240

New York State passed its first scaffold law in 1885 and its present form is the result of ongoing adjustments to it. It is the only state which has such a law and continues it despite the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has made a dearth of rules and regulations governing scaffold safety.

The most modern version of this law is designed "to protect construction workers from the extraordinary risks they face in working on and around scaffolds and other lift devices at construction sites."

The main feature of the present day Scaffold Law is that it,

"Imposes absolute liability on contractors and work site owners who neglect to provide adequate safety regulations and devices to protect workers from falls and falling objects."

Absolute liability means that even if a construction worker had contributory negligence, it won't be counted against his claim for injury. Also, the liability may extend beyond the employer to include the general contractor and/or the project owner. Labor Law 240 exists to oblige contractors and project owners for compliance with the law and not to punish them with large monetary awards when they are in compliance with safety laws governing scaffolding.

In addition, injured parties can sue the scaffolding manufacturer and installer if the scaffolding was defective or installed incorrectly.

What Do I Do If I Am Injured In A Scaffolding Accident?

If you are injured on the job in an incident involving scaffolding, do the following to protect yourself and your rights:

  1. Seek immediate medical attention
  2. Notify your employer
  3. Complete your Form C-3 and mail it to the Worker's Compensation Board location closest to you.
  4. Contact an experienced New York State personal injury attorney.

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