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The Sanders Law Firm

Scaffold Safety Law

In recent years there has been a great deal of debate over the importance of the Scaffold Safety Law. There are advocates on both sides, and arguments about money and insurance, about how to keep New York’s construction industry booming, and how to keep workers safe. Wading through all of the arguments can be overwhelming, which makes apathy toward the issue an easy response.

To understand this issue fully, it helps to understand what the Scaffold Safety Law actually is. It is not a separate law in and of itself but is a part of New York’s Labor Law Section 240. This section stipulates that the owner or general contractor of a construction site has to provide safety equipment for workers. If they fail to provide things like secure scaffold parts and fall protection equipment, and someone is seriously injured or killed without it, then the owner or contractor can be held legally responsible for the accident.

So long as the equipment is provided and available for workers, the site owner or contractor is not considered responsible for any accident involving scaffolding and is not held liable. The owner is also not liable if the injured worker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, or if the worker chose not to use the safety equipment provided to him.

Some owners and contractors argue this places an undue burden upon them; that they should never be liable for these accidents, while workers’ advocates argue that Scaffold Safety Law has prevented countless injuries and deaths.

The heart of this issue comes down to negligence and liability, which are an important part of any civil claim. Negligence refers to actions or inactions that are contrary to what a reasonable person would do. Driving while wearing a blindfold, for example, is certainly NOT something a reasonable person would do, so it would be an act of negligence. If someone’s negligence directly causes or contributes to injury to a person or his property, the negligent party can be held liable for paying those damages.

The Scaffold Safety Law places liability on the owner or general contractor of a construction project unless they provide usable safety equipment on a worksite. Owners argue that this liability is unjust and excessive, while workers argue that they should not be responsible for buying or bringing things like scaffold rails and fall prevention equipment to a worksite.

Platform access must be provided when the platform is more than two feet above an access point, such as via ladders or ramps. Scaffolds must be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision of a competent person trained in scaffold safety. Scaffolds must be inspected for defects routinely by a competent person, and defective parts must be replaced immediately.

A competent person with scaffold experience must train other workers on a site to recognize potential hazards and properly use scaffolds and safety equipment. Whenever there is inclement weather, high winds, or storms, a competent person must determine if it is safe to use scaffolds at a job site.

It can be easy to assume that OSHA will keep workers safe and enforce proper regulations at New York worksites. In reality, however, OSHA inspectors only have the ability to inspect about one worksite per day each year. This is usually done after a serious accident or when a violation has already been reported. OSHA is understaffed and cannot be a constant presence to keep workers safe.

Regulations like the Scaffold Safety Law help keep site owners and contractors honest, because these laws are always in effect even when OSHA is not around. While we all want to imagine that construction companies have their workers’ best interests at heart, sometimes the best way to ensure they protect the people who work for them is to make them do so while protecting their wallets.

After a scaffolding accident, a HURT-511 personal injury lawyer can help you recover the benefits to which you may be entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

Danger of Scaffolding Accidents

Although scaffolding is a problem to people throughout New York City, construction workers are in the greatest danger of scaffold accidents. Scaffolds are commonly used at construction sites to let workers reach raised areas to do electrical, carpentry, and plumbing work, as well as to give welders access to areas they cannot normally reach. When used properly, scaffolds are an integral part of the construction industry.

About two-thirds of all construction workers use scaffolds each year, which creates a huge potential for accidents and injuries. On a construction worksite, scaffolds should be erected to code and everyone around them should be trained in safe practices when on or around a scaffold.

Many fatalities in construction each year are caused by falls and being struck by falling objects, and scaffolds present both of these risks. Safety rails should always be included on scaffolds, which must be built to support construction-level weight, and workers on raised scaffolds should wear harnesses and tie-off lines so that they can be caught if they do fall.

A big problem in the construction industry is that when safety violations do occur, they go unreported. Construction companies are frequently cited for not setting up or using scaffolds to OSHA standards. This is the third most common OSHA violation in the country. If workers report these violations, and ensure that site managers enforce the safety standards, that will be greatly reduce the chances of a workplace accident and injury.

As a busy city that seems to be always under construction, New York has additional risks of scaffolding-related injury to pedestrians. Safety laws passed in the 1980s require building facades to be inspected, and repaired or replaced as necessary to keep pedestrians beneath structures safe.

However, building owners can erect scaffolds to ensure falling debris is caught or held in place, which meets the requirements of these laws. Unfortunately, no deadline was ever put in place for how long these scaffolds can remain, only that the permit for them be renewed periodically. This is usually less expensive than actually having the exterior of the building repaired or renovated.

Because of this, scaffolding has become an eyesore and danger on streets throughout the City. Building owners complain that repair costs are too high, and that the scaffolds keep pedestrians safe while allowing them to keep rental prices reasonable.

But the scaffolds themselves present new dangers, including tripping hazards for people walking past them, and danger from renters placing items on top of scaffolds above city streets, which can fall and strike someone underneath. Business owners also complain about scaffolds blocking their storefronts and hurting their businesses as customers refuse to fight their way past the structures to get inside the store.

Although several attempts have been made to place limits on how long these scaffolds can be kept up in front of a building, so far they have all failed. Most scaffolds, or “sidewalk sheds” as they are called, are removed a few years after the repair work is done, but even two years of living with scaffolding can be painful. In some cases, however, these sheds are left up for years with no repair work being done.

One offender has had scaffolding up for more than a decade, with no sign of actual work taking place any time soon. The best thing you can do is support city lawmakers working to find a reasonable solution to the city scaffolding problem. New scaffolds are being designed that are brighter, more visually appealing, and less obstructive on sidewalks and around buildings. Encourage local businesses or building owners to use this type of scaffolding, so that city streets become safer and more enjoyable for all pedestrians.

If you trip and fall over a scaffold, or fall off a scaffold while working, take legal action against the building owner so that they realize leaving these obstructions up for an indefinite period of time is unacceptable. For more information, call HURT-511, our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

Winds & Collapsing Scaffolding

Scaffolding collapses in New York have been known to be caused by gusts of 35 miles per hour winds that can displace pieces of plywood acting like sails and bring the entire structure down. Scaffold collapses in the past have caused life-altering and fatal injuries; notably, the collapse that killed five construction workers nearly two months after 9/11. Construction is constantly occurring all over Manhattan, and scaffolding and sidewalk sheds are a common sight. But who is in charge of inspecting scaffolds for safety, and who can be held liable when a construction worker or pedestrian is injured in a collapse.

The Department of Building’s Scaffold Safety Unit is in charge of overseeing the installation, use, and dismantling of all suspended scaffolds, supported scaffolds, and sidewalk sheds in New York City. However, it is the construction company’s responsibility to perform daily inspections before the scaffold is used. The results of these inspections need to be recorded in a log book that is kept on the construction site. The Scaffold Safety Unit can stop by any time to inspect the log book and cite the construction company if an entry is missing.

New York City has unique and highly-debated laws concerning liability in scaffold accidents. The original law is over 130 years old and was instituted to protect workers and civilians from the danger of scaffold accidents that were increasing in number during the city’s burgeoning high-rise construction boom. The law has been revised over the years, but its concept has essentially stayed the same—that contractors and property owners are responsible for injuries and losses suffered by workers and pedestrians in a scaffold accident.

For more information about scaffolding laws, feel free to contact HURT-511 and our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

Injuries Caused by Scaffolding Accidents

Any significant construction, restoration, or repair project on a building larger than a doghouse likely involves the use of scaffolding. Sixty-five percent of construction projects in the United States involve the use of scaffolding by an estimated 2.3 million workers, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With that many people and that much usage, construction accidents and serious injuries are apt to happen.

Falls from scaffolding accidents are among the most common construction and worksite accidents in New York. These kinds of falls are all-too-frequent and can be the result of negligence, improper equipment or scaffold setup, or inattentiveness from other workers. No matter what caused the accident, there are some serious consequences and injuries that can result from them, so be aware of the dangers from such a fall.

Perhaps the most common type of injury from a scaffolding accident is a crush or compression injury. This occurs due to the impact with the ground or other surface after falling from a height. The higher up you are when you fall, the more speed you will have when you hit the ground, which makes the impact more forceful. Crushing injuries from a scaffolding fall can result in broken bones, serious bruising, and even concussion. Damage to internal organs can also occur as a result of a fall and impact, which can be difficult to detect, so seek medical assistance after any serious fall.

Head injuries commonly occur as a result of a scaffolding accident in New York. These types of injuries can be very serious and result in brain damage or traumatic injury. There are a wide range of affects that can come from brain damage, including sensory loss such as blindness or hearing loss, difficulty speaking or recognizing people, and an inability to function on a daily basis. Serious brain damage can also lead to swelling that can be potentially fatal, making head injuries from a scaffolding accident more serious than just about any other type.

Neck and back injuries to the spine after a fall can be very severe and anyone who suffers such an injury should not be moved after the accident. Only emergency medical personnel should move someone who has potentially injured the neck or back. Spinal damage can result in tremendous ongoing pain and diminished mobility, which often requires long-term treatment, surgery, and physical therapy to recover completely. Serious injuries to the neck and back can even result in life-long paralysis.

Scaffolds are used by builders and construction workers to elevate themselves, materials and equipment. Sadly, however, what goes up on scaffolding sometimes comes down suddenly and unexpectedly, leading to injuries or death. BLS statistics indicate that scaffolding accidents result in 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths each year and that almost 30 percent of all workplace deaths from falls involve scaffolding or ladders.

Scaffolding’s potential for tragic injuries – whether to construction workers, pedestrians, or others near work sites –  is one reason that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established extensive and detailed safety rules regarding the assembly and use of scaffolds and the training and precautions workers need to take.

OSHA revised and strengthened these standards after a 1996 BLS study revealed that 25 percent of workers hurt in scaffold accidents received no scaffold safety training, and 77 percent of scaffolds lacked guardrails. But as stringent as these rules are now, they may not always be followed, and compliance can’t prevent all accidents.

Scaffold support or planking giving way, either due to defective or damaged equipment or improper assembly, leading to falls and injuries to those below. Slipping or tripping while on a scaffold due to such factors as slippery surfaces, an unsafe incline or insufficient planking, leading to falls where guardrails, a safety harness, or proper training were lacking. Falling objects hitting either a worker on a scaffold or those below.

Other scaffold accidents can involve improper placement of scaffolds and equipment too close to power or other utility lines, leading to electrocution. The very nature of scaffold accidents –usually involving people and objects falling from significant heights –  means that when accidents happen, the injuries that follow tend to be serious or fatal.

Any injury from a fall due to a scaffolding accident is serious and medical assistance and treatment should be sought immediately after such an event. Depending on the nature of the accident, someone may be liable for what happened and responsible for your medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

If you or someone you know has been injured, call HURT-511 and our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

What You Need to Know About Scaffolding Accidents

The collapse of a scaffold, or a fall from scaffolding, can have serious consequences. If you have been injured in a scaffold accident, you need an experienced scaffold accident lawyer. The steps you take immediately after a scaffold accident can have a significant impact on your ability to pay for your medical expenses and seek lost wages through Workers’ Compensation. In addition you may also be entitled to commence a law suit to recover money damages for pain and suffering, loss of services of a spouse, lost union benefits, and other damages allowable by law.

Take pictures — Use your camera on your phone to take pictures of everything, from your injuries to the scene of an accident.

Notify your employer — Notify your employer of the accident as soon as possible the law requires written notice, this must be done within 30 days.

Evaluate your injuries — If you were hurt in a scaffolding accident, determine whether you need emergency medical attention. If so have someone call an ambulance and wait for emergency medical services to arrive. Do not allow someone to talk you out of seeking medical care if you have been injured. Answer all questions from medical providers truthfully. Do not allow your boss or foreman to influence your history on how the accident happened. Often times dishonest company owners attempt to influence workers to state that their injuries occurred off the job, so their Workers’ Compensation rates are not affected.

Get a medical examination — If you have been injured in a fall from a scaffold, have a complete medical examination. Give the doctors and other medical care providers a complete history of what hurts. Some injuries get worse and some injuries get better over time. Its important that your treating doctor establishes all injured areas, so that your case can properly be established for treatment as well as for Workers’ Compensation purposes. Don’t focus all your attention on the obvious injuries and ignore other trauma. The pain in your back may still limit your movement long after your broken leg has healed.

Contact an attorney — The sooner you retain a lawyer, the sooner you can start preserving evidence to support your claim. In many cases involving scaffold collapses, or falls from scaffolds at construction sites, or building related trades, you may have a strong case to recover damages for personal injuries, pain and suffering as well as other economic loss in addition to Workers’ Compensation.

Find out your rights, and what you may be entitled to as a result of your accident case. At HURT-511, our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

Scaffolding Accidents Regulations & Liability

Constructing a rapidly-expanding modern world requires millions of construction workers performing potentially dangerous work. According to OSHA, around 2.3 million construction workers (65 percent of the entire industry) work on scaffolding in limited or high-frequency capacities.  Scaffolding is required to temporarily reach high places while construction is ongoing.

Workers must be able to safely construct and navigate scaffolding in order to complete their work duties. As always, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a long list of requirements and regulations regarding the implementation, use and safety of construction scaffolding.

The most common cause of death for construction workers in the United States is falls from great heights. Out of 899 construction worker deaths reported in 2014, 359 were caused by falls. A total of 54 deaths were reported specifically as a result of scaffolding accidents in 2009. Protection from falls and scaffolding violations are number 1 and number 3 respectively on OSHA’s list of top 10 most frequently cited violations in 2015. Some of the most important requirements for scaffolding that sits on the ground, as dictated by OSHA, are as follows:

  • Each scaffold and scaffolding component must be able to maintain its own weight plus at least four times its intended maximum load
  • Only qualified individuals should design and construct scaffolding
  • There must be no gaps greater than one-inch wide between planking and support railing. In places where there are obstructions from side brackets or other joints, the space must not exceed nine inches
  • Each scaffold platform and walkway must be at least 18 inches wide. If walkways are less than 18 inches wide, guardrails or fall-protection gear should be implemented
  • Guardrails must be used in all sides of scaffolding over 10 feet in the air, unless an open face of the scaffolding directly faces an area where work needs to be done
  • Wood is an acceptable material for walkways, while plastic or steel must NOT be used for guardrails

Most scaffolding accidents are the result of user error, faulty equipment, improper construction of the scaffolding itself, or negligent maintenance. Workers can be seriously injured or killed when they are struck by a falling object, lose their footing and fall from the scaffolding, or when supports give way. The following tips can help you prevent injury or death in a scaffolding accident.

  1. Inspect scaffolding prior to use. A daily visual inspection can help workers to more effectively detect damage, defects, or worn parts that should be replaced.
  2. Follow manufacturer guidelines, such as specifications for set up and break down, and information about load capacities. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a scaffolding accident.
  3. Train workers regularly. Anyone working on or around scaffolding should receive proper training. In addition to general safety information, workers should be trained about that particular scaffold’s design, how to set it up and tear it down, and how to safely climb on and off the scaffolding.
  4. Proper gear should be worn at all times. Safety gear, including hard hats, non-slip footwear, and harnesses should be well maintained and readily available for workers. Scaffolding should also be equipped with appropriate safety equipment, including toeboards, guardrails, and
  5. Ensure that scaffolding is erected on stable ground. Never use unstable objects -such as bricks or concrete blocks – to support scaffolds.
  6. Keep scaffolding a safe distance – at least 10 feet – from power lines. A MA work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a scaffolding accident.
  7. Clear debris and spills from scaffolding immediately. Falling debris can be deadly, and spilled liquids and other substances can result in slipping.

If you notice that any of the above guidelines aren’t being followed at your work site, speak to a supervisor immediately. If your supervisor doesn’t resolve the issue, you can always report the problem to OSHA. An agency representative will visit your work site to conduct a safety investigation. If violations are discovered, the company will need to immediately remedy the issue, and may be cited, fined, or both.

In such a dangerous industry, construction workers take on a sizable risk while performing their regular duties. As a result, many accidental deaths happen every year that may not be prevented despite any amount of safety regulations.  However, there are far too many cases of gross negligence causing deaths that could, and should, have been prevented. If construction foremen don’t follow OSHA protocol or they produce an unsafe work environment, they are liable for the medical expenses, pain and suffering of any worker who is injured as a result.

At HURT-511, our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.

HURT-511 operates in all boroughs of New York including all Bronx neighborhoods, namely: Bedford Park, Belmont, Fordham, Highbridge, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Morrisania, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Throgs Neck, University Heights and Woodlawn.

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