scaffold accident lawyer keetick sanchez

What is a Scaffolding Accident?

Last updated on: October 27, 2023

Construction workers in the U.S. are at particular risk of suffering accidents and fatalities on the job. Research has found that construction workers are the fourth-highest group of employees at risk for work-related fatalities. And one of the most serious and common accidents that construction workers face are those involving scaffolding. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that about 65 percent of construction workers actively work on scaffolding as part of their jobs. Unfortunately, scaffolding accidents are notoriously dangerous, resulting in approximately 60 fatalities and 4,500 injuries annually. 

Dealing with injuries after a scaffolding accident can be overwhelming. The victim will have to suffer from the pain of their injuries while also having to deal with medical bills and other financial challenges from being out of work. Hiring a skilled New York City scaffold accident lawyer may be able to help the victim recover the compensation they deserve. 

Attorney Keetick L. Sanchez and her team of experienced personal injury lawyers are well-versed in the laws surrounding scaffolding accidents. Call us today at (646) 701-7990 to schedule a free consultation.

Scaffolding Accidents are a Particular Problem in New York City

Scaffolding safety violations are the fifth most common OSHA safety violations in the nation. Recently, OSHA issued its highest fines ever to violating construction companies in the first quarter of 2021, many for scaffold violations.

Because of the size of many of our buildings in New York City, scaffolding safety is a particular issue here. When scaffolding is not properly secured, constructed, or maintained, workers can fall from great heights, leading to serious injuries and tragic deaths. 

scaffolding accident lawyer in queens
scaffolding accident lawyer in Queens

OSHA Regulations for Scaffolding in New York

Falls are the most common cause of death among construction workers. This is why employers, contractors, and site owners must take every precaution to ensure their workers’ safety. OSHA requires that employees who are more than 10 feet above the ground must have fall arrest systems or guardrails. This depends on what type of scaffolding they work from. Guardrails must be capable of withstanding at least 200 pounds and measured between 38 and 45 inches high.

Guardrail systems may not be sufficient for some types of scaffolding, such as suspended scaffolds, and a fall arrest system may be necessary. OSHA defines personal fall arrest as a system that stops an employee from falling from a working level. 

Before working on a scaffold, employees must be trained properly. Employees working on scaffolds can be exposed to many hazards. If they don’t have the right training, it is possible for catastrophic injuries and accidents to occur. This is particularly true when scaffolding is being erected and taken down.

To ensure scaffolding can be safely used by workers, it must be regularly inspected. OSHA requires scaffolding to be inspected by qualified professionals before and after every shift.

Common NYC Scaffold Accidents

While most scaffolding accidents are falls, some involve the collapse of the structure itself. Some scaffold accidents are unavoidable, but unfortunately, most are caused by serious unaddressed safety issues. These can include

  • Missing safety guardrails
  • Improper securing to the building
  • Missing or improperly installed scaffolding base plates
  • Missing or broken platform planks
  • Improper or unsafe access
  • Missing bracing
  • Overloading
  • Inadequate fall protection
  • Missing pins
  • Falling tools and other objects
  • Close proximity to power lines

When a worker has sustained injuries in a scaffold accident, they may be able to collect compensation for their injuries through workers’ compensation, a personal injury lawsuit, or a claim based on New York’s scaffold law.

What are the Main Causes of Deaths and Injuries on Scaffolds?

Scaffolding, a ubiquitous sight on construction sites, is often linked to serious accidents and fatalities. Understanding the primary causes of such incidents is crucial for enhancing worker safety.

  • Defective scaffolding: Accidents frequently result from faulty scaffolding design or inferior manufacturing. Parties involved in designing, manufacturing, or selling defective scaffolding can be held liable for resulting injuries.
  • Improper construction: Scaffolding must be accurately constructed to ensure safety. Poor construction, including insecure attachment points or inadequate guardrails, can lead to accidents, with the construction company potentially held accountable.
  • Inadequate maintenance: Regular inspection and maintenance of scaffolding preserve its structural integrity. Old or poorly maintained scaffolding can cause severe accidents due to hazards like slippery surfaces.
  • Weak planking: Planks that aren’t robust enough can cause scaffold collapse, resulting in serious injuries. Defective planks, characterized by wormholes, splits, or nail holes, should be immediately replaced.
  • Lack of training and safety equipment: Workers must receive specific training on scaffold safety, including fall protection. OSHA identifies inadequate training as a common safety violation. Providing safety equipment, such as harnesses and safety nets, is also essential.
  • Falling objects: Protective measures must be in place to prevent injuries from objects falling from scaffolds. Covering scaffolding can help avoid incidents involving falling tools, debris, or other materials.
  • Hazardous working conditions: Negligence by contractors or property owners can create dangerous conditions. Extreme weather conditions can also render scaffolds unsafe.
  • Safety standards violations: Overloading scaffolds or exposure to loose wires can lead to collapse or electrocution. Compliance with OSHA safety standards is paramount.

Worker safety on scaffolding is paramount and requires a combination of quality design, proper construction, regular maintenance, comprehensive training, and adherence to safety standards. By understanding and addressing these issues, the risk of scaffold-related injuries and deaths can be significantly reduced.

Causes of Deaths and Injuries on Scaffolds Description
Defective Scaffolding Faulty design or manufacturing can lead to accidents.
Improper Construction Inadequate construction, guardrails, or attachment points.
Inadequate Maintenance Poorly maintained scaffolding poses risks like slippery surfaces.
Weak Planking Weak planks can cause scaffold collapse.
Lack of Training Inadequate worker training and fall protection.
Falling Objects Objects falling from scaffolds can cause injuries.
Hazardous Conditions Negligence, weather, or unsafe conditions contribute.
Safety Standards Violations Overloading or exposure to hazards can lead to accidents.

New York’s Scaffold Law

In New York, we have laws that specifically address accidents caused by safety issues on construction sites. 

New York Labor Law § 240, otherwise known as the scaffold law, helps protect those workers who have been injured on a site because of safety problems and holds contractors, owners, and agents liable when these accidents happen. If a gravity-related accident occurs due to safety violations, multiple parties can be held legally and financially accountable for a worker’s injuries. 

The Deliberate Nature of Our Scaffold Law

While the scaffold law does help many construction workers and their families get the crucial help they need after an accident, these claims are not always easy to establish. The laws have been written very specifically, and the courts are very strict about what claims fall under the law. The burden of proof is on the victim to establish that laws have been violated and that the violation is what directly contributed to the accident. 
If you are a construction worker who has been injured in a scaffold accident in New York City, it is important to get professional legal advice to ensure that you understand how the laws affect you and that your rights are being represented. At K L Sanchez Law Office, we have been diligent advocates of construction workers throughout our careers and are committed to their legal rights and those of their families. Contact us at (646) 701-7990 or through our website contact form to schedule a no-cost consultation.

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