The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that 65% of construction employees work on scaffolds frequently, so it is not surprising that some of the most common accidents at construction sites involve scaffolds or other types of lifts, hoists, or ladders. These accidents are typically the most serious in terms of severity of injuries, which can result from construction workers' falls from defective, improperly installed, or unreasonably safe scaffold equipment; an employer's failure to ensure the use of protective equipment; and by objects falling onto workers from scaffolds, lifts, and ladders.
OSHA Scaffold Regulations
Every employer, supervisor, and worker involved in work on scaffolds must comply with OSHA regulations as to, among other considerations, construction and inspection:
Design and Construction
The design and construction of scaffolds must conform with 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.
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. NY Labor Law 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.
Opponents of Section 240 (which goes above and beyond the requirements found in OSHA regulations) and its broad interpretation by the New York courts feel that its 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.
Get a Legal Review of Your Scaffold Injury
Your scaffold injury claim may involve complex issues concerning party liability, compliance with safety regulations, engineering, and indemnity. If you think that someone was at fault in a scaffold injury you (or a loved one) were involved in, you should have an attorney provide a review of the facts of your claim as soon as possible. An attorney who is experienced in the area of construction accident liability will make sure that you receive the legal remedy to which you are entitled.
Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure your rights are protected.