Construction Accident Law in New York
Construction accidents are, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence in New York. According to the NYC Department of Buildings website, on average about 34 construction accident reports are filed monthly – and these are just the numbers that are reported. Many construction accidents, particularly those that involve undocumented workers, are not reported.
Some of these accidents have resulted in serious injuries and even death. In fact, in the United States, construction workers had the highest number of workplace fatalities over any other type of job, as highlighted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report from 2019.
Even though construction is vital for New York’s development, infrastructure, and awe-inspiring skyline, it remains a very dangerous business. Make no mistake: construction is a for-profit business and there can be a tendency for contractors and work site managers to cut costs, with the trade-off being endangering workers’ lives.
It is important to know what legal protections you are entitled to while working on a construction site.
If you have been in a construction-related accident, it is best to seek legal counsel. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have centered their practice around personal injury law and are here to help. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form for a FREE no-obligation consultation today.
Local Labor Laws That Work To Protect You
If you’re an employee in New York, you are entitled to basic legal protections that are in place to ensure your safety. As an employee, it is crucial to know your rights in case your work site is in violation of one of the following laws:
NY Labor Law 200
New York Labor Law 200 details the general duty to protect the health and safety of construction site employees. It states that the employee must be provided with machinery, equipment, and devices at these work sites that are safe to use. The work site, including all machinery and equipment, must also be organized in such a way that there is reasonable and adequate protection for employees and anyone who is frequently present at the work site.
If the city commissioner finds that any machine, equipment, or device is not up to code, they can post a notice attached to it that warns people of the potential danger. After attaching this notice, it is prohibited to use the machine, equipment, or device until the issue is corrected and the commissioner removes the notice. After receiving word from the property owner that the situation has been fixed, the commissioner will return within ten days to check the work site again.
For example, perhaps you were working on your job site, saw a notice that a city commissioner posted about a dangerous machine, and watched the site contractor remove the notice without hesitation. Thinking that this removal was legal, you operated the machine and sustained injuries from the unfixed issue. In this case, the contractor could be at fault for removing the sign without permission from the commissioner, and you may be entitled to compensation.
NY Labor Law 202
New York Labor Law 202 protects both the public and people cleaning windows and exteriors of buildings. The law states that the work cannot commence until the property owner provides a safe means for completing the work, as well as safety precautions and devices for the prevention of accidents and protection of any pedestrians below. In turn, the employee must agree to use the safety protections provided when cleaning the windows.
Maybe you were cleaning a window and your safety harness failed, causing you to fall from a great height; or perhaps you were a laborer working below and were struck by a piece of falling equipment that was not secured as the window cleaner was doing his or her work. In either of these situations, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the party legally responsible for worker safety at the location.
NY Labor Law 240
New York Labor Law 240 is one of the most important safety laws that applies to New York workers. This law protects workers by stating that property owners or contractors must give proper protection to employees working under scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices that are constructed while working on a job site. Although Labor Law 240 is commonly referred to as the “Scaffold Law,” it is meant to protect workers in all types of gravity-related accidents, not just falls from scaffolds. The law also encompasses falls from unsafe ladders, lifts, and roofs, falls through temporary flooring and unsafe openings, and falls from certain equipment a worker may be forced to labor on. Additionally, there are an extensive number of cases where workers have been able to successfully bring lawsuits because they were struck by falling objects.
Labor Law 240 also states that if scaffolding is more than twenty feet in the air on a work site, a safety rail that is secured at least 34 inches off the ground and extending around the full length of the outside is required. The scaffolding also must be constructed so as to bear four times the maximum weight of an individual. It is important to note that this law does not apply to professional engineers, architects, or landscapers.
If you sustained an injury on unsafe scaffolding, or were hit by a falling object, the legally responsible party could be found liable.
NY Labor Law 241
New York Labor Law 241 lists the requirements contractors and owners of buildings must follow when constructing, demolishing, or excavating a building. These range from requiring floors to be filled between beams, to what type of beams to use, to safety precautions on elevators at the work site. This law also ensures worker and pedestrian safety when demolishing a building. The property owner must conduct a survey of the building before it is demolished in order to check for asbestos or asbestos material. Additionally, like Labor Law 240, architects, engineers, and landscapers are exempt from this law.
New York Industrial Code Part 23
In addition to the distinct labor laws listed above, New York job sites also operate under the New York Department of Labor’s Industrial Code. Part 23 of the code is entitled “Protection in Construction, Demolition and Excavation Operations” and is a comprehensive list of the many safety codes in place to protect construction workers on job sites. These include but are not limited to laws on guard railings, hand tools, personal hoists, demolition by hand, scaffolding, and use of explosives.
For example, Part 23 of the code states before demolishing anything at a construction site, all gas, water, steam, and other supply lines must be shut off, capped, or sealed. The service or utility company must also be notified 24 hours before the demolition begins. If a laborer was working on a demolition project and sustained an injury due to a running power line, the property owner could be at fault for not shutting off the power.
These local labor laws were created to protect workers and create safe work environments. However, in the case that negligence led to a violation of one of these laws, it may be helpful to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury law. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are well-informed and here to consult with you about your case. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak with an attorney today.
National Labor Laws
Aside from New York State’s labor laws, job sites nationwide must also follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s set of guidelines. Their website includes a detailed A-Z list of safety guidelines and laws, training requirements for employers and employees, and lists how to report an OSHA violation. According to OSHA, there are ten violations that are most commonly reported. These include the following:
- Fall protection (specific to construction)
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Control of hazardous energy
- Powered industrial trucks
- Fall protection (specific to training requirements)
- Machine guarding
- Eye and face protection
OSHA states that this list was meant to alert employers of common hazards so they can fix them before an accident occurs; far too many workplace accidents are preventable. OSHA laws change every year, so it is necessary to remain up to date and informed on your rights as an employee. These violations and regulations can be overwhelming and complex, so it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you believe you have a case.
Filing a Construction Accident Lawsuit
If the unthinkable has happened and you have been in a construction accident, it’s important to ensure that you are following the proper steps when reporting your accident and injuries.
- Report the accident to your employer. It is important to notify your employer so they can submit an accident report to OSHA and/or New York State. Additionally, if you intend to apply for workers’ compensation benefits, reporting the accident to your employer is a necessary first step.
- Under OSHA standards, your employer has 24 hours to report your accident. If they fail to do so, that is an OSHA violation. If found guilty of an OSHA violation, under the OSH Act of 1970 Section 17 employers can be fined anywhere between $5,000 and $70,000 for each issue.
- If your case falls under New York labor laws or the New York Industrial Code, you can submit an online form reporting a suspected workplace violation, with the option to remain anonymous. If you’d rather report by phone, you can call the Task Force hotline at 1-888-469-7365.
After reporting your accident to both your employer and the government, you may wish to seek legal counsel with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form for a FREE no-obligation consultation today.
Attorneys That Fight for Your Rights
The law firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy has centered its practice around personal injury law and helping the victims of tragic accidents. Our construction accident lawyers yield top results in construction accident lawsuits. Our law firm has obtained over $1.5 billion in results for clients. Some of these results include, but are not limited to, the following:
- $110,174,972.38 jury verdict for a cyclist in Bushwick who was struck by a falling railroad tie due to a track replacement project on the J/M/Z line
- $15,000,000 settlement for an HVAC technician who unfortunately died due to injuries sustained while lifting a 28,450-pound chiller unit with inadequate chain usage
- $12,000,000 settlement for a tunnel worker who fell 40 feet into a shaft while working on a subway extension project
- $11,500,000 settlement for a construction worker who suffered severe wrist injuries after being cut by a defective circular saw missing its safety guard
- $11,000,000 settlement for a Brooklyn construction worker who fell three stories after stepping on an unsecured hole covering
- $10,875,000 jury verdict for a union worker who fell off the top of a Brooklyn building and was impaled by an unguarded steel rebar
- $10,500,000 settlement for a 50-year-old union laborer who was struck by a defective saw that kicked back; later, he tragically died from his injuries
- $7,400,000 settlement for a construction worker who fell on a narrow steel beam and sustained severe shoulder, knee, and back injuries that later required surgery
- $7,300,000 settlement for a worker who was performing steel demolition and fell to the ground after a beam landed on him, tragically causing the amputation of his right arm
- $7,200,000 settlement for a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident who unfortunately died after falling down an elevator shaft
If you were seriously harmed in a construction accident, it’s best to speak with a lawyer to know what your options are. To request a FREE case evaluation, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak to one of Block O’Toole & Murphy’s lawyers today.