What Construction Workers Should Know About the Scaffold Law in New York

Last updated on: January 23, 2023

The construction industry is the most dangerous industry in the United States today with falls being the leading cause of death in on-the-job accidents. And the State of New York has taken the safety of construction workers very seriously by instating labor laws such as New York Statute 240(1), otherwise known as New York’s “scaffold law.” If you are not sure if the scaffold law applies to you, or if you’ve been hurt on the job, call top-rated NY personal injury attorney Keetick Sanchez today at (646) 701-7990.

The scaffold law makes owners and contractors responsible for ensuring the safety of any workers who must perform jobs where there are gravity-related dangers and the risk of falling. If the owner, contractor, or agent is not in compliance and a worker suffers an injury, that worker has the right to sue those parties for damages.

The New York scaffold law is unique in that it places absolute liability on owners and contractors whether they had any direct supervision or control over the work at the time of the injury or not. Consequently, they cannot place blame on another party such as a subcontractor or even the worker. No other state has this kind of stringent law in place protecting safety of the worker.

The scaffold law applies to seven job categories. People covered by the scaffold law include construction workers engaging in the following activities:

  • Erection
  • Demolition
  • Repairing
  • Altering
  • Painting
  • Cleaning
  • Pointing

While engaged in these jobs, an owner or contractor is required to ensure the safety of these workers by providing certain safety devices such as scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, or other devices. Furthermore, these devices must be constructed, placed, and operated properly to protect the worker. If the owner or contractor did not provide these safety measures or if they were improperly placed or operated and a construction worker was injured while engaged in one of these tasks, the scaffolding law will apply.

But the statute is not limited to these specific construction workers alone. It can actually cover a broader range of workers as long as they can demonstrate that they were an integral and necessary part of the activity. If a worker can prove that he or she was working “in furtherance of” a project where the statute applied, the worker may still be covered under the scaffold law.

Workers’ Compensation

An on-the-job injury will entitle workers to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, worker’s compensation is often not sufficient to compensate for the injuries or even fatality of a fall. And workers’ compensation takes away the victim’s right to hold the at-fault party liable, leaving the possibility that others may suffer from their negligence in the future.

The Burden of Proof

Suffering an accident is not enough to hold contractors and owners responsible under the scaffold law. It is up to the injured party to prove that the law was violated and that the violation contributed to the injury. This is when you need the advice and guidance of a legal professional to ensure that your rights are protected.

How is the Scaffolding Law used in a Construction Accident Case?

In civil litigation, the New York Scaffold Laws can be very important because they create strict liability for owners and contractors who fail to follow them.

In most accidents, the injured party (usually the worker in construction) has to prove that the defendant, often the general contractor or owner, failed to act responsibly in order to get compensation. These cases often saw the defendants “pointing the finger” at injured workers and accusing them of failing to act in a safe way. The defendants in these cases would seek to avoid liability by proving that the main cause of the accident was not something they did but rather that the worker was negligent or wrongful.

The statutes of the Scaffolding Law eliminate virtually any defenses owners or contractors might otherwise have. The liability of the owner and contractor is instead based upon answering some basic questions such as:

  • Is the project covered under the statutes of the Scaffolding Law? 
  • Is it possible that the contractor or owner failed to supply the scaffolding and other safety measures as required by statutes?
  • Was the injury caused by something that could have been avoided?

These questions will most likely be answered “yes” by the general contractor (owner) who is liable for any accident or injuries. These statutes make it much easier for workers injured and their families, to seek compensation for any injuries, damages, or (potentially wrongful death) that may have occurred.

If you have been injured in a fall on a job site or if you have lost a loved one in a job site accident, you owe it to yourself to get the advice of an experienced construction accident lawyer to understand your rights. At K L Sanchez Law Office, we offer a free consultation to discuss your case so you can understand your rights and options under the law.

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