Every finished structure you encounter required some amount of scaffolding during its construction. Many times, temporary scaffolding is also needed during routine maintenance of any structure, tower, or monument. Unfortunately, there is an inherent risk involved in using such equipment. Both passers-by and construction workers are at risk while in the presence of scaffolding.
The person or company in charge of a construction site has an obligation to maintain a safe site and safe equipment. Hence, state lawmakers passed a couple of laws pertaining to contractor and property-owner obligations regarding scaffolding safety requirements, and the right to sue those who violate the requirements. These legal provisions are called the “Scaffolding Laws.”
New York Labor Law § 240 and 241 protect construction workers who are injured on bridges, scaffolds, ladders, hoists, and other elevation-related construction sites. They apply to injuries from falls by workers and accidents in which they are hit by objects that fall from scaffolds. Statutes 240/241 require contractors and property owners to provide a “reasonably” safe construction site and establish clear standards as to how they must protect workers from the scaffolding accidents that can happen.
When they fail, New York’s Scaffolding Laws allow those who are injured to sue the property owners/project managers for damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death). Virtually all construction trade workers are protected, including U.S. citizens, foreign “guest” workers, and construction site bystanders.
Types of Scaffolding Fall Injuries and their Causes
The most common type of injury after a fall from a scaffold is some sort of crush or compression injury. This impact injury occurs when the victim hits the ground or another hard surface after a fall from height. It stands to reason, of course, that the higher up the victim is, the more disastrous, more forceful the fall can be.
Crush injuries from a scaffolding fall can produce:
- Neck and back injuries, sometimes with temporary or permanent paralysis (paraplegia or quadriplegia)
- Head injuries, ranging from a concussion to traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Internal organ damage
- Fractured arms, shoulders, and legs, including compound fractures and sometimes requiring amputation of limbs
- Serious lacerations or bruising
Causes of falls from scaffolds can include any or a combination of the following:
- Improper scaffolding construction or operating procedures which cause collapses
- Environmental conditions (cold and ice, rain, wind)
- Scaffolding failures at attachment points
- Parts failure, including structural strains from overloading of scaffolding
- Inadequate fall protection. There are clear guidelines for fall protection for all scaffold workers in NY § 240/241; serious, sometimes criminal, penalties for violators of the statutes against property owners may follow a scaffold-related accident
- Inadequate procedures regarding scaffolding safety and/or absence of proper fall protection equipment
Falling Objects from Scaffolds Often Cause Severe Injuries on Construction Sites
The list of falling objects that can injure construction workers is long. Some of the more common ones include:
- Bricks, concrete slabs, wood and particle boards, drywall, pipes, beams, glass and other construction materials
- Hand tools
- Scaffolds themselves and safety devices that are improperly assembled, installed or secured
- Other miscellaneous items
The following specific types of “elevated” construction site-related activities are addressed in the Scaffolding Laws:
- Structural repair or alteration
- Painting and cleaning
- Erection or assembling of scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, handers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other temporary devices
Normal maintenance or “decorative” activities (such as attaching or removing temporary seasonal holiday lights) are not covered under the New York Scaffolding Laws.
Do you Need a Seasoned New York Scaffolding Law Attorney?
At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we represent victims of all types of scaffolding-related injuries. If you’ve been injured on or near scaffolding in any way, you are probably entitled to compensation. New York Workers’ Comp rarely pays construction workers the full amount of money they may deserve when injured on the job. This is why Kaplan Lawyers PC works to identify any third parties who may have had a hand in your scaffold accident; we then aggressively help you obtain full and fair compensation – not just Workers’ Comp benefits. Construction sites change daily, though, and evidence can quickly be lost. Witnesses who might support your injury claim may disappear. Time is running out, so we urge you to take the positive step of scheduling a free consultation with our New York City Scaffold Law injury attorneys or call the Kaplan Lawyers PC location that’s most convenient for you…right away.