Construction workers spend a great deal of time on scaffolds. In fact, 65% of those in the construction industry work on scaffolds. Accidents related to scaffolds are attributable to 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities annually. With most of construction work being done at dangerous heights, it is important that these workers have legal protection. You are generally barred from suing your employer in most instances, if you receive Worker’s Compensation benefits. However, the Scaffolding Law provides a remedy to workers who have suffered a height related injury and imposes absolute liability on building owners and/or general contractors.
Unique to New York, The Scaffold Law (NY Labor Law Section 240) was enacted in 1885, at a time when construction was booming in New York City, and skyscrapers were beginning to be built. For many years debate has ensued regarding whether the law should be reformed. Those who urge reform argue that the “absolute” liability standard should be replaced with a “comparative negligence” standard which would reduce the costs associated with construction projects and lawsuit settlements. Those in favor of the current law argue that workers are able to receive just compensation for injuries under the statute.
The Scaffold Law applies to any construction worker who is working at a height and is not restricted to scaffolds. In fact, the Scaffold Law applies to any device that operates at a height, in addition to allowing recovery for falling objects. Workers are protected by the Scaffold Law if they are engaged in erecting; demolishing; repairing; altering; painting; or cleaning a building. Additionally, erecting any elevation devices such as slings, braces, ropes, or hoists, are also protected construction tasks under the law.
Routine maintenance or cleaning done are generally not tasks covered under the law. Further, those who are engaged in working on a one- or two-story family home cannot invoke the Scaffold Law, but instead it only protects construction workers who are working on a “structure,” as defined by law. The law considers a “structure” to be a building, a boat, bridge, tunnel, garage, etc.
If you are a construction worker who has suffered injury due to a height related accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable about construction accidents to discuss your legal rights and remedies. Call Arze & Mollica, LLP at (718) 996-5600.