New York Safety Code Violation Lawyers
Property owners, employers, and construction workers throughout New York City are required to follow both national and citywide building codes and safety codes. These codes were created to protect tenant, visitor, worker, and pedestrian safety, but unfortunately, the Department of Buildings (DOB) sends out thousands of citations for building and safety code violations each year. These codes are ever-changing and updated regularly, so if you’re renting a property in New York or working on a job site, it’s important to know what your rights are and if they are being violated.
If you were seriously harmed because of a New York safety or building code violation, the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help. We have obtained top results for those injured as a result of safety violations, including $15 million and $12 million settlements. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form for a FREE, no-obligation consultation with an attorney today.
Common Safety Code Violations
OSHA Safety Code Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, is a subsection of the U.S. Department of Labor that was created to assure safe and healthy working conditions for employees. OSHA sets and enforces a series of standards regarding workplace safety, as well as provides training, educational materials, and any assistance a worker or company may need. The workplace safety regulations that OSHA sets are incredibly important to employees because they protect workers’ rights and establish a codified set of rules that employers must follow.
According to OSHA, there are ten most commonly reported OSHA violations that happen nationwide in the workplace. 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 publishes these violations in order to alert employers of any hazards that might be present on their work sites, so they can remove those hazards before any accidents occur. Of course, the long-term goal is that these safety violations, after they are highlighted as concerns, are not repeated at work sites in the future. Identifying hazards on a work site and removing them is an important step in keeping workers safe, as OSHA notes that many injuries and illnesses that occur in the workplace are preventable.
New York Safety Code Violations
While OSHA controls the national safety code and sets the standard for work site safety across the U.S., New York has a local code that work sites also must abide by. Part 23 of the New York State Department of Labor’s Industrial Code, titled “Protection in Construction, Demolition and Excavation Operations,” is a comprehensive list of regulations that must be followed on any construction site. Below is a list of some of the categories included in the code, and examples of possible violations:
- Electrical hazards. All power lines around a construction site should be considered energized unless otherwise confirmed. It would be a violation of the code if a property owner or contractor allowed employees to work in an area with power lines and did not confirm that they were de-energized, putting the employees at risk of electrocution.
- Safety railings. The handrail of every safety railing must be smooth and devoid of splinters or nails. If a railing is not smooth, it would be a violation of Part 23.
- Work on roofs. While working on a roof, roofing brackets must be in place and follow proper protocol, meaning that they must be constructed and installed to fit the pitch of the roof and have a level working platform. If the roofing bracket on a job site was not level, it would be in violation of the code.
- Hand-propelled vehicles. Hand-propelled vehicles must be in good repair. If they have damaged handles or loose parts, they cannot be used. It would be a violation of the code if a job site used a hand-propelled vehicle with a loose handle.
- Concrete work. In concrete work, forms, shores, and reshores have to be structurally safe and properly tied together to maintain their shape. If they are not structurally safe or properly tied together, they would be in violation of the code.
- Special demolition regulations. Before a building can be demolished, all gas, electric, water, steam, and other supply lines must be protected with coverings or relocated to protect them from damage. If they are relocated, the service or utility company must be notified 48 hours prior to the demolition. If the lines are moved before demolition and the company isn’t notified, this rule would be violated.
- Workmen’s hoists. Hoist towers must be secured at each corner at intervals that cannot exceed 26 feet vertically and must be marked with metal tags that say “Workmen’s Hoist –– Do Not Remove.” If a hoist does not have this metal tag, it would be a violation of the code.
- Power-operated equipment. All power-operated equipment must be in good repair and in proper operating condition at all times. If the equipment is broken, it must be taken to be repaired immediately by a trained professional. If a piece of equipment continually malfunctions, it would be a violation of the code.
- Scaffolds. All scaffolding must be constructed to bear the weight of four times the maximum weight allowed. If the scaffold cannot hold a worker, it would be in violation of the code.
Aside from listing individual laws related to specific situations, Part 23 exists to ensure that each work site is safe for its workers. In Part 23-1.5, it states that anyone managing a construction site is obligated by this code to provide a safe work environment and personal protective equipment. These labor laws exist primarily to protect workers and create a safe working environment.
Since there are many different types of safety code violations, keeping track of them all can be confusing, but they are in place to prevent injury and keep workers safe while on the job. If you were involved in an accident and believe it may have occurred because of a safety code violation, you may want to speak with a personal injury lawyer who is well-versed in New York’s codes.
Reporting a Safety Code Violation
If you have been injured at your workplace, it is important to be aware that your employer has to abide by OSHA’s health and safety standards. The employer has a responsibility to provide a workplace that is safe from hazardous or dangerous situations. If found guilty of a violation of OSHA’s standards, under the OSH Act of 1970 Section 17 employers can be fined between $5,000 and $70,000 for each transgression. Additionally, under OSHA Standards an employer has 24 hours after an employee has been hospitalized and 8 hours after an employee’s death to report these accidents. If your employer does not report an accident, that is an OSHA violation.
To report a safety code violation as a worker, call 311 if you are located in New York City. If you are outside New York City but still in New York State, you can call 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675). For more information about submitting a complaint, you can visit the Department of Buildings website.
These statutes can be confusing and overwhelming. If you believe there has been a safety code violation in your workplace that caused an injury or even death, it is best to seek legal counsel. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to consult with you on your case. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form to speak to a knowledgeable attorney today.
New York State Elevator Code
Every day, New Yorkers ride elevators, whether it’s to and from home, at their workplace, or during their commute. According to the NYC Department of Buildings website, New York City is home to over 70,000 elevators and escalators, making this mode of transportation a fairly common occurrence. Although improved technology and updated safety codes have made elevator riding safer, it is important to be aware of the risks of an unsafe elevator.
Under the Department of Buildings, New York State elevators must abide by a series of general regulations. These standards can be found in Chapter 30 of the New York Building Code, which establishes the minimum safety requirements for and details the design, construction, installation, alteration, maintenance, inspection, test, and operation of vertical lift transportation devices. The code is extensive, covering everything from accessibility to elevator mirrors to emergency procedures.
Additionally, The Elevator Unit under the New York Department of Buildings ensures the operational safety, reliable service, and lawful use of vertical lift transportation devices that include:
- Amusement rides
- Personnel hoists
- Material lifts
- Wheelchair lifts
- Other devices
The Elevator Unit works to protect elevator passengers, ranging from investigating accidents to conducting re-inspections of hazardous violations. Additionally, they respond to any complaint they receive regarding an elevator violation. If you believe that an elevator you rode in is unsafe, you can file a complaint at 311 Online or call 311.
Elevator Safety Act
In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed Senate Bill 4080, also known as the Elevator Safety Act, to further improve elevator safety. This law requires that all individuals who are engaged in the design, construction, inspection, maintenance, and repair of elevators be licensed by New York State. The law also created the New York Elevator Safety and Standards Advisory Board, which helps regulate elevator safety and establish recommendations for elevator inspections, exams for licensing requirements, and enforcement of the new law. In addition to these new regulations, the Elevator Safety Act creates a universal standard that all elevators must comply with across New York State. Although Governor Cuomo has signed the bill, the law does not go into effect until January 2022.
Unsafe or defective elevators can potentially cause tragic injuries or even deaths––the Elevator Safety Act will protect you if you were injured in an elevator that was built, maintained, or inspected by an unlicensed professional.
If you were injured in an elevator accident that was caused by improper maintenance or operation of an elevator, you may want to speak to a personal injury lawyer to discuss if your injury was caused by a negligent code violation.
New York State Building Code
If you are renting a property or working on a job site at a building, you are protected by basic rules and regulations that a building must follow in order to create a safe living environment. In New York, this building code is called the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code). This code protects both first responders, workers, and residents if an accident occurs, and lists statewide minimum standards that each building must follow. These range from sections on residential construction, to fire prevention, to plumbing, and even to property maintenance. As with most codes, the Uniform Code is edited and added to as situations arise. Each year, new amendments are added to ensure that each building, the workers who construct it, and its tenants are safe.
This code can get tricky if you live in an older town. The Uniform Code was only enacted in 1984. According to the New York State Division of Building Standards and Codes (BSC), it has no authority to address issues predating January 1, 1984. The one exception to this rule is that every building, regardless of when it was constructed, must follow the Fire Code and Property Maintenance Code.
New York City Building Codes
In addition to the Uniform Code that applies to the entire state, New York City itself has specific building codes. The NYC Department of Buildings website has a comprehensive list of building codes that each property must follow. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Types of construction
- Fire and smoke prevention
- Energy efficiency
- Structural tests and special inspections
- Electrical systems
- Plumbing systems
- Elevator and conveying systems
Perhaps you were working on a building and fell due to unsecured safety railings on the roof, or were a tenant in a building with poorly maintained electrical and plumbing, and suffered injuries as a result––regardless of the type of accident, you have a right to live and work in a safe environment. Don’t be intimidated by a landlord or boss who may tell you otherwise; the NYC Building Codes are in place to protect you.
Reporting a Building Code Violation
If you believe that your building or construction site is in violation of New York’s building codes, or if you believe you were injured due to your property manager’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. There are several ways that you can report an incident.
- By phone: You can report unsafe construction work and improper building use by calling 3-1-1 if you are in New York City or 212-639-9675 if you are outside of the city.
- By Twitter: You can tweet 311 to @nyc311
- Online: You can find information and file a complaint by visiting the NYC311 website.
After you file your complaint, you will be given a service request number that you can use to check the status of your complaint. In the case that you are reporting a building code violation that caused you to sustain an injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit. If so, it is best to seek legal counsel to be aware of your options.
Who is Liable?
When you are reporting a violation, whether that be for a building code, safety code, or elevator code, it is important to know who could be held liable. As with violations, there are multiple people who could be considered liable for your accident. These include:
- Building owners or property managers: It is the building owner or property manager’s job to ensure that your building is up to code and safe for its residents. If the violation that occurred was due to their negligence, they could be found at fault.
- Landlords: Similar to a building owner, it is the landlord’s responsibility to create a safe living space. As a tenant, you have the right to a livable, safe, and clean apartment––this right is called warranty of habitability and exists even if not explicitly noted in your lease. Landlords have a responsibility to make sure the space they are renting out is up to code. If they don’t continually check updated building code, safety code, and elevator code laws to properly maintain their rented space, and an accident occurs, it is possible that the landlord could be held liable.
- Construction site managers: Construction site managers could be at fault for a code violation if they were not licensed professionals or if they didn’t abide by the specific rules and regulations of the safety code, building code, or elevator code while overseeing construction on their project.
- Contractors: It is the contractor’s responsibility to oversee the day-to-day operations on a job site. Therefore, if they were unlicensed or were not following building, safety, or elevator codes while overseeing construction, they may be held liable for an accident.
Real Actions That Provide Real Results
The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are skilled in advocating for those who have been injured as a result of safety or building code violations. Select results include:
- $15,000,000 settlement for a 38-year-old HVAC technician who tragically died after attempting to hoist a 28,450-pound chiller unit with inadequate chains that broke during transport
- $12,000,000 settlement for a 45-year-old signal man who, while working on a crane in a subway shaft, fell down the shaft after the cage of the crane began to sway
- $11,500,000 settlement for a Bronx worker who suffered severe wrist injuries after being cut by a defective saw that was missing its safety guard
- $11,000,000 settlement for a Brooklyn construction worker who fell three stories after stepping on an unsecured temporary cover that was placed over a hole on the floor
- $10,875,000 jury verdict for a 35-year-old union worker who fell off the top of a Brooklyn building and was impaled by an unguarded steel rebar
- $10,500,000 settlement for the family of a 50-year-old union laborer who died after a defective saw kicked back and cut him in the neck
- $7,400,000 settlement for a union sheet metal worker who fell on a restoration project in New York and required a spinal cord stimulator to be implanted surgically
- $7,300,000 settlement for a steel demolition worker who fell after a beam suddenly collapsed and required his right arm to be amputated as a result of the accident
- $6,793,881 jury verdict for a union laborer who fell backwards on a job site and was impaled by a sharp and uncapped end of a vertical rebar
If you were seriously harmed due to a building code or safety code violation, 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.