Scaffolding is a familiar sight on construction sites in New York City and elsewhere. They are crucial for construction projects. They help provide the necessary platform for workers to perform tasks at a high height. But when safety measures falter, a scaffolding accident can happen. These can often lead to serious injuries or even fatalities.
This article provides a brief overview of scaffolding injuries in construction work.
A Brief Background of Scaffolding
Scaffolding, or staging, is a temporary structure to support a work crew and materials. They aid in the construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings. There are different types of scaffolding. This includes supported scaffolds, suspended scaffolds, and aerial lifts. But no matter the type, scaffolding safety should be paramount.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claims working on scaffolding is common. OSHA estimated that 65% of construction employees work on scaffolds frequently. Some of the most common accidents at construction sites involve scaffolds. It also includes other types of lifts, hoists, or ladders.
These types of accidents usually result in more severe injuries. They can result from falls from defective, improperly installed, or unsafe scaffold equipment. It can also result from an employer's failure to ensure the use of protective equipment. Objects falling onto workers from scaffolds are also a major concern.
Common Scaffold Injuries
There are several risks with scaffolding in construction work. Scaffolding can cause a variety of injuries. Injuries can range in severity and the amount of medical treatment needed. Here are some common injuries workers can suffer due to a scaffolding accident:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Falls leading to broken bones
- Crushing injuries when scaffolding collapses
Factors like missing guardrails, unstable planking, or inadequate safety equipment can cause these. Each of these injuries can lead to significant medical expenses. It can also lead to loss of income, permanent disability, or even death. It is crucial for construction workers and employers to follow safety protocols. By doing this, they can help prevent these types of injuries.
OSHA Scaffold Regulations
To prevent scaffold accidents, OSHA has stringent regulations. They mandate that scaffolds must be inspected daily before use. They also require the use of fall protection like guardrails. Workers must also be trained on scaffold safety. Despite these protocols, accidents still occur. Every worker involved with scaffolds must follow OSHA regulations.
Scaffold design and construction must conform to OSHA requirements. This includes:
- Construction methods
- Rated capacities
- The type of equipment
Each scaffold component and scaffold must be able to support its own weight. It also must support at least four times the maximum intended load. They must support this weight without failure. Each suspension rope must be able to support at least six times the maximum load.
Employers need a competent person to inspect all scaffolds and scaffold components. They should inspect for visible defects before use on each work shift. Scaffolds should be built, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision of a competent person. A competent person should inspect all components of personal fall protection equipment. This includes:
- Body belts
- Trolley lines
- Points of anchorage
Any worn or visibly damaged equipment should be removed from service immediately.
Employers that don't follow OSHA's scaffolding regulations can face hefty fines. Non-compliance with these safety standards can expose employers to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. Failing to follow these regulations can be considered negligence. This exposes employers to liability in personal injury or wrongful death cases.
New York Scaffolding Laws
Unique to New York state is Labor Law 240. This is also known as the “New York Scaffold Law." This New York labor law puts the responsibility for safety on the construction company. The responsibility is also on its subcontractors. If a worker is injured due to a violation of this law, the company may be considered a liable party.
The scaffold law was designed to protect construction workers. Specifically, the law helps protect against the risks workers face working with scaffolds. The law imposes absolute liability on contractors and work site owners. They are liable if they neglect to provide adequate safety regulations. They must also provide devices to protect workers from falls and falling objects.
For example, consider a construction worker in New York City. Imagine they fell and sustained serious injuries while working on a skyscraper project. As the worker pursued their workers' compensation claim, they encountered difficulties. The insurance company of the insurance firm attempts to minimize their injuries. They also attempt to reduce their payout. This creates significant financial stress and hardship for the injured worker. Yet, their personal injury attorney can invoke the New York Scaffold Law.
The New York Scaffold Law has strict liability provisions. As a result, this can lead construction companies to carry higher insurance coverage. This can make them potential targets for lawsuits. It can also intensify the battle between claimants and those attempting to limit their liability. For this reason, opponents of this law feel that it's too broad. They argue its broad interpretation by the New York courts has caused harm to the construction industry as a whole. They argue that dramatic insurance cost increases come with greater exposure to liability.
Workers' Compensation Claim vs. Negligence Claim
A workers' compensation claim is typically the first recourse for an injured worker. This type of claim is made through the employer's workers' compensation insurance. It's designed to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and a part of the worker's lost wages. Importantly, workers' compensation operates under a “no-fault" system. This means that benefits can be collected without having to prove that the employer was at fault for the injury.
The workers' compensation system has limitations. For example, it does not cover damages for pain and suffering. It may not cover full lost wages. Moreover, by accepting workers' compensation benefits, an employee typically loses the right to sue their employer directly for the injury.
On the other hand, you can file a third-party negligence claim in a personal injury lawsuit if you can show that your injuries were caused by someone other than your employer. With a scaffolding accident, this could be the construction company or a subcontractor. Or it can be the manufacturer of defective scaffolding equipment. The goal of this lawsuit is to prove that the other party was negligent. They must also prove that their negligence led to the accident. The accident must have led to the resulting injuries.
Successfully pursuing a negligence claim can result in greater compensation than a workers' comp claim alone. This is because a personal injury lawsuit allows for recovering full lost wages. It also allows for recovery from pain and suffering. You can also recover other losses not covered by workers' compensation.
Sometimes, a worker can pursue a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim. This is particularly true if a third party contributed to this accident. After a scaffolding accident, it's crucial for the injured worker to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. They can help review your legal options.
Get a Legal Review of Your Scaffold Injury
Following a scaffolding accident, seeking legal help from a construction accident lawyer is important. This may be a personal injury lawyer specializing in construction injury cases. They can guide a worker through filing a workers' compensation claim, a personal injury lawsuit, or both. Scaffolding accident lawyers can fight against insurance companies that might deny or downplay claims.
Your scaffold injury claim may involve complex issues concerning party liability and compliance with safety regulations. If you think that someone was at fault in a scaffold injury you (or a loved one) were involved in, you should talk to an attorney.
An attorney can provide a review of the facts of your claim as soon as possible. An attorney experienced in construction accident liability will ensure you receive the legal remedy to which you are entitled.
Talk to a construction accident attorney today.
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