Do you work on a construction site? There is a good chance that some, if not most, of your tasks require you to climb a ladder, work on a scaffold, use ropes and pulleys or any other devices that pose significant risk for injury.
At some point, you have probably thought about what could happen if you were to fall. It is a frightening thought because the injuries are generally severe. They often lead to broken bones, fractured spines, internal bleeding and head trauma. The physical injuries are often excruciating, requiring long-term hospitalization.
The initial injury is only the beginning. Workers who suffer injuries from a fall often experience complications that last a lifetime. They often sustain permanent neurological, muscular or skeletal damage that could cause physical and mental disability. Add to all of this, the emotional struggle of dealing with the incident and the aftermath.
It is a very frightening thought and a very real concern for all workers on constructions sites whether they climb up high or stand below work going on above them. In New York City, 24 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2014 involved a fall to a lower level.
The risk for and severity of the injuries is a big reason why Section 240 of the New York Labor Law exists. If you are familiar with the statute, you probably refer to it as the "Scaffolding Law."
What is the Scaffolding Law? And other important questions.
The Scaffolding Law is a statutory provision that safeguards workers from falls on construction sites by requiring contractors and owners to "give proper protection" to those employed.
- What does this mean for me? In other workplace accident situations, you are generally limited to workers' compensation benefits. The statute allows you to bring a civil suit against an owner or contractor when you suffer injuries related to a fall.
- Does the law apply only to the use of scaffolding? No. While Scaffolding Law is the popular name, it essentially applies to the use of any device that is used to complete work that involves heights. The specific examples named in the statute are "scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings hangars, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons and ropes."
- Does the law apply only to specific construction projects? No. The law applies to any project that involves the "erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building structure."
- Who is liable when injury occurs and to what extent? The law specifically mentions property owners and contractors, but this is a broad definition. You do not have to be directly employed by the contractor or owner, independent contractors may still recover under this statute.
- Are there any exceptions to liability? Yes, for professional engineers. This is a very limited exception and not applicable in most cases.
- What if I falling was my fault or partially my fault? The theory of comparative negligence could lessen an injured party's damages or bar recovery in some personal injury situations. NOT under the Scaffolding Law in which liability is absolute. It does not matter if you contributed to your own fall.
We provide this information because all workers should understand their rights and options under the law, especially those who work on dangerous construction sites. If you have been injured, it is crucial to seek advice from an experienced attorney directly and immediately. Do not rely on information provided online.