Fact: 65% of the construction industry works on scaffolds, lifts, hoists or ladders.
The past several weeks have brought tragic news to New Yorkers in the number of scaffold deaths and serious injuries occurring within the State. Simultaneously, there has been heightened political pressure to change the “Scaffold Law”. Its opponents feel its broad interpretation by the New York courts has caused harm to the construction industry as a whole, in the form of the dramatic insurance cost increases which come with greater exposure to liability.
New York Labor Law Section 240
New York Labor Law section 240, often called the “Scaffold Law,” was designed to protect construction workers from the extraordinary risks they face in working on and around scaffolds and other lift devices at construction sites. Section 240 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” in this context means that under New York Labor Law section 240, a given defendant need not have actually employed the injured worker, and legal liability for the injury can extend to both general contractors and property owners under certain circumstances. In addition, some New York court decisions suggest that a claim under section 240 may not be defeated by the injured worker’s own lack of care or negligence that may have contributed to their injury.
OSHA Scaffold Regulations
Every employer, supervisor, and worker involved in work from scaffolds must comply with OSHA regulations as to, among other considerations, construction and inspection:
· Design & Construction
The design and construction of scaffolds must conform to OSHA requirements concerning type of equipment, rated capacities, construction methods, and use. Each scaffold and scaffold component must be capable of supporting its own weight plus at least four times the maximum intended load without failure. Each suspension rope must be capable of supporting at least six times the maximum intended load.
Employers should require a competent person to inspect all scaffolds and scaffold components for visible defects before use on each work shift. Scaffolds should be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision of a competent person. All components of personal fall protection equipment (including body belts or harnesses, lanyards, droplines, trolley lines, and points of anchorage) should be inspected by a competent person before use. Any visibly damaged or worn equipment should be removed from service immediately. In conducting a work site investigation, it is critical to gather evidence and witness testimony as quickly as possible after an incident has occurred.
Having performed numerous work site investigations, BNI has developed the below checklist used specifically in a construction scaffold injury matter:
1. Injured party’s personal information: – Name, SSN, DOB, current address, current phone numbers, (2) emergency contacts
2. Work Information: Employer, other contractors on site, supervisor, coworkers names, job description, specific job assigned on D/L, D/L time line, equipment on site, equipment directly used by the injured party, safety equipment availability and that which used by plaintiff, equipment provider or was it self purchased, clothing/shoes worn by plaintiff.
3. Additional Information Required: Pay stubs, union affiliations, inter-company accident reports, OSHA filings and history with employer, witnesses’ information, prior related accident/injuries.
Stay tuned as the Scaffold Law wars heat up.
Feel welcome to give BNI’s skilled investigators a call should you have any questions or comments regarding on-site injury investigations.
Lina M. Maini
Editor, The Beacon Bulletin
CEO, Beacon Network Investigations, Inc.
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