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NY's Labor Law Protects Workers In Scaffold Falls

Our city has witnessed an unprecedented construction boom over the past few years. All you have to do for confirmation is look up to our ever-expanding skyline. 

Scaffolds, ladders, and other devices to help workers reach great heights are no stranger to New York City construction sites. Unfortunately for workers and their families, neither are scaffolding accidents that leave workers severely injured. Despite this dangerous reality few workers truly know what their rights are after an accident occurs. 

We think it's time to change that. 

New York State Labor Law To The Rescue

Scaffold accidents are a dangerous reality, but New York State Labor Law is a much more pleasant reality. These laws are on the books to protect workers who are involved in elevation-related accidents and provide them with the financial compensation they need to recover from serious injuries and care for their families. 

Labor Law Section 240 is commonly known as the "scaffold law" and requires owners and general contractors of construction sites to provide workers with fall protection when requiring them to work at heights.

The fall protection standards are laid out in the Industrial Code of the State of New York and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Failure of owners and general contractors to meet these standards results in a cut-and-dry legal understanding that is to the workers' benefit. 

Construction workers who work on scaffolding are entitled to the following: 

  • A properly erected/assembled and maintained scaffold, complete with secure guard rails that run the length of any open areas
  • Secure planking to stand on while working
  • A body harness that is securely attached to a lifeline or lanyard that is properly anchored above the worker and able to support at least 5,000 pounds

Contrary to statements made by the opponents of these laws, they are not put in place as part of a "nanny state" or for the purpose of impeding the progress of construction and business activity. These laws are about making sure construction workers have a safe work environment that allows them to return home to their families at night in one piece. 

When corners are cut and safety equipment not provided, negligent owners and general contractors need to be held accountable for their negligence. The law permits injured workers and family members of a killed worker to seek financial compensation for losses such as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost earnings.