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New York City Scaffolding Accident Lawyers

Attorneys with Top Verdicts and Settlements in New York Scaffold Accident Cases

New York Scaffolding Accident Lawyers

Working with heavy equipment and building materials on the limited space of a scaffold can be both difficult and dangerous.

Serious accidents have severe repercussions for workers and their loved ones. A scaffold fall or other accident can result in death, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, herniated discs, spinal fractures, and other significant injuries.

If you were hurt because of a scaffolding accident, it’s important to learn your legal rights from attorneys skilled at litigating scaffold injury cases. The law firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy has one of the best records in recovering compensation for scaffold injury victims in New York State. Select results include:

  • $9,750,000 settlement for a worker with prior back surgery who was hurt when his scaffold collapsed while he was installing trim to a ceiling at a firehouse in Suffolk County
  • $7,000,000 settlement for worker who was hurt while dismantling a scaffold at a construction site in Astoria, Queens
  • $6,000,000 settlement for a union worker who fell from a scaffold while performing caulking work in a Brooklyn construction project
  • $5,885,000 jury verdict for a 35-year-old worker who suffered arm and back injuries after a Baker rolling scaffold moved out from under him
  • $5,030,572 verdict for a laborer who sustained multiple herniated discs and knee injuries after a scaffold tip-over, causing him to fall approximately 25 feet

Year after year, our attorneys have recovered more results exceeding $1,000,000 than any other law firm in New York. Block O’Toole & Murphy is recognized for landmark verdicts and settlements, including a $110 million record-breaking jury verdict in a Brooklyn construction accident case. To speak with a lawyer today, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our Contact Form for a free legal consultation.


  1. Types of Scaffolding Accidents
    1. Scaffold Collapse
    2. Falls From Scaffolding
    3. Falling Object Accidents
    4. Electrocution and Electric Shock
    5. Scaffold Tip-Overs
  2. OSHA Regulations for Scaffolding Work
  3. Personal Fall Arrest Systems
  4. Legal Protection After a Scaffolding Accident
  5. Top Attorneys in Scaffold Injury Litigation

Types of Scaffolding Accidents

Scaffolding is a useful piece of equipment that comes in a number of different varieties such as a Baker Scaffold, supported scaffolding, suspended scaffolding, and aerial scaffolding. The versatility of scaffolding, however, means there are many different ways that accidents can occur. Some of the most common causes of scaffold accidents are:

Scaffold Collapse

Scaffolding is usually put up for a temporary purpose, which means scaffold construction can often be rushed, leading to scaffold collapse and worker injury. Additionally, parts of the scaffold such as the wheels can deteriorate over time, causing the scaffold to tip or collapse entirely. Also, the wooden boards that create the scaffold platform need to be an OSHA approved size and they need to be replaced from time to time. Often contractors take shortcuts on the quality of the boards they use for platforms, causing them to break or fail. Like all building materials it is important that scaffolds be regularly inspected by employers to ensure that they are safe for use.

Falls From Scaffolding 

Falls usually occur when employees are not provided with adequate fall protection. Guardrails are almost always a requirement; for some types of scaffolds, such as a suspended scaffold, additional fall protection such as body harnesses (known as yo-yos) are also required.

Many times, employers do not provide enough body harnesses or yo-yos for the number of workers on a site. It is also important that the equipment be of the correct size so that it fits workers properly. If a harness is too small, it can’t be worn by a large construction worker. The same holds true for smaller construction workers.

In other words, if a contractor has plenty of safety harnesses, but they are not located at the worksite and the workers aren’t given access to the harnesses, then they are not available to the worker. This lack of availability can make a contractor or owner liable for a worker’s injuries.

Falling Object Accidents

OSHA mandates that scaffolds more than 10 feet above a lower level require toe boards. In addition, tools and materials should be secured, and workers below should always be wearing hardhats. Additionally netting should be present to capture falling debris and stop it from falling on workers or pedestrians below.

Electrocution and Electric Shock

Large metal structures such as scaffolding will especially attract electricity. Scaffolds must be constructed at least 10 feet from any active power line.

Additionally, contractors and owners can be held liable if they fail to ensure that nearby power sources are not de-energized when work is being performed nearby that creates a risk of electrocution or electric shock injury. Public power authorities can also be held liable if they fail to properly shut off power when instructed to do so and a worker gets injured.

Scaffold Tip-Overs

Supported scaffolds are only as stable as their foundation. Scaffolds should be constructed with base plates and mud sills beneath each leg to provide adequate support. The wheels of rolling scaffolds need to be changed from time to time when they wear out and stop rolling smoothly. Wheel locks need to be inspected and repaired when necessary — a scaffold can roll or tip unexpectedly when the wheel lock or wheel is not working properly.

OSHA Regulations for Scaffolding Work

OSHA mandates that any employee who is 10 feet above a lower level must be protected by either guardrails or a fall arrest system, depending on the type of scaffolding they are working from.

Provided guard rail systems must be inspected before each use by contractors and owners to make sure that all connections are properly in place and that the equipment itself is not in need of replacement. Guardrail systems must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force and measure between 38 and 45 inches in height.

Employees must also be properly trained before working on a scaffold. There are numerous hazards which employees can face while working on scaffolds, and if they are not adequately prepared for these dangers, catastrophic accidents and injuries could occur. This is especially true in the erection and dismantling of scaffolding, which is a highly specialized process in itself.

Scaffolding must also be regularly inspected to ensure it can safely be used by workers. OSHA mandates that scaffolding needs to be inspected by a qualified professional before and after each shift for any defects which may be present.

Many falls in New York occur every year when contractors and owners fail to provide guardrails on scaffolds.  Guard rail systems are simple and not terribly expensive, yet year after year, contractors and owners take short cuts and fail to provide this life saving equipment.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

For some types of scaffolding, such as suspended scaffolds, guardrail systems are not sufficient, and a fall arrest system may be necessary. OSHA defines a personal fall arrest system as a system used to halt the motion of an employee in a fall from a working level.

Personal fall arrest systems include the following components:

Body Harness or Yo-Yo

The body harness/yo-yo is designed to minimize stress forces on a construction worker’s body in the event of a fall from a scaffold, while providing sufficient freedom of movement to allow work to be performed.

For this equipment to do its job properly there must be a tie-off point that the lanyard/connection of the harness can be affixed to. If a contractor or owner provides a safety harness but there is no tie off point available, the contractor and owner can still be held liable under New York Labor Law 240(1).

Attachment Location

According to OSHA guidelines, the attachment of the body harness must be located in the center of the worker’s back near the shoulder level, or above the head. A faulty harness is not a safe harness and worker injuries often result from improper equipment.

Vertical Lifeline/Lanyard

Vertical lifelines or lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds and should be protected against being cut or abraded. Each employee working on the scaffold should be attached to a separate vertical lifeline.

Two employees can be attached to the same lifeline during the construction of elevator shafts as long as both employees are working atop a false car that is equipped with guardrails and the strength of the lifeline is 10,000 pounds. Failure of a lifeline or lanyard often results in catastrophic injury and/or death

Horizontal Lifeline

A horizontal lifeline is a pliable line rigged in a horizontal plane and secured at each end to an anchorage. The worker is connected to the line using a personal fall arrest system that moves with the worker between the two anchorage points. It is the duty of the contractor and owner to make these lifelines available when necessary and the worker must be instructed to use them if available.

Anchorages or Tie-Off Point

Anchorages or a tie-off point are used for the attachment of personal fall arrest equipment. They must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached and should be used under the supervision of a qualified individual.  They also need to be accessible. Many serious construction accidents occur despite well-meaning employers.  They supply their workers with protective harnesses except they neglect to make sure there is an appropriate anchorage or tie-off point for the workers to connect their harness to.  This can often be remedied with proper planning and communication.


The webbing is the ropes and straps used in lifelines, lanyards, and strength components of body harnesses. It must be made from synthetic fibers.


Personal fall arrest system connectors include D-rings and snaphooks. They must be made from drop-forged, pressed or formed steel, or equivalent materials and have a corrosion-resistant finish. They should also have smooth surfaces in order to prevent damage to connecting parts of the system. OSHA sets forth minimum strength requirements for D-rings and snaphooks.

Failure to make proper fall arrest systems available and instruct workers recent in time to the accident can result in liability for owners and contractors under New York State Labor law 240(1). It is not the responsibility of the worker to provide his or her own safety equipment.

Legal Protection After a Scaffolding Accident

New York Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law, protects workers by requiring employers, contractors and site owners to prevent gravity-related injuries by providing the proper safety equipment and training.

This means that the Scaffold Law goes beyond scaffolding and covers all fall protection equipment, such as body harnesses, guardrails, vertical and horizontal lifeline systems, hoists and slings. The law may also cover workers who have been injured by a falling object or ladder fall – any injury which was caused by gravity, and a lack of adequate safety equipment or proper training.

To make a case under the Scaffold Law following a personal injury, two factors must be present. First, there must have been some type of safety violation. Regarding a scaffold accident, this could mean that a body harness was not provided, or that toe boards were not installed, and a worker below was injured by a falling object. If the scaffolding collapses, the company which erected the scaffolding may be responsible.

Next, it must be established that there is a causal relationship between the safety violation and the accident that occurred. This is why it’s important to file an accident report with your employer to record the facts of the accident.

Employers, contractors and other potential defendants may attempt to use the “sole proximate cause” defense, wherein they will try to show that adequate safety measures were provided, and that the worker is solely responsible for the injury they suffered due to their own neglect. Co-workers and other witnesses may also be able to provide valuable accounts of how an accident occurred.

Top Attorneys in Scaffold Injury Litigation

The construction accident attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are well-known in their field for scaffold injury litigation and have recovered numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for clients harmed in scaffolding accidents. Our lawyers have been quoted in the New York Times, New York Law Journal, New York Post, and other media outlets on the particulars of Labor Law in New York. They have also been published in legal journals on litigation regarding New York Labor Laws. For instance, a New York Law Journal piece by Partners David Scher and Daniel O’Toole examines recent Scaffold Law rulings to better understand how the law has been applied in the past, and how it may be applied going forward.

If you have been a victim of a scaffolding accident, our attorneys provide compassionate and skilled litigation to help workers find justice and receive compensation for their damages. Notable case results include:

  • $9,750,000 settlement for a worker who sustained serious spinal and shoulder injuries after falling off an old Baker scaffold with no railings
  • $7,000,000 settlement for a Queens worker who suffered multiple neck injuries after a scaffolding accident and required a cervical spinal cord stimulator
  • $6,000,000 settlement for a union waterproofer who required two-level spinal fusion surgery at L4/5 and L5/S1 after an exterior scaffolding accident in Brooklyn
  • $6,000,000 verdict for a 45-year-old union carpenter who fell 7 to 8 feet to the ground after a scaffolding collapse at a Harlem construction site
  • $5,885,000 jury verdict for an undocumented worker who required spinal fusion surgery after a scaffolding fall at a demolition site in Queens
  • $5,030,572 jury verdict for a 31-year-old worker who suffered multiple herniated discs when the scaffold he was working on tipped over
  • $5,000,000 jury verdict for a carpenter who fell off a scaffold during a Brooklyn building renovation project, requiring multiple surgeries
  • $5,000,000 settlement for a 37-year-old union rigger who sustained serious fractures and tears after falling from scaffolding
  • $3,700,000 settlement for a worker who fell due to unsecure scaffold planks while he was trying to remove asbestos from the ceiling of a school in Brooklyn
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a union carpenter struck by a metal beam during the erection of a scaffold, causing injuries to his head
  • $3,411,000 settlement for a building superintendent who was struck by a brick that had fallen from a spider scaffold 9 stories above him
  • $3,400,000 settlement for a union carpenter who fell from a pipe scaffolding with no safety railings 12-14 feet down to the concrete floor below
  • $3,000,000 settlement for a worker who was injured in a scaffold collapse at a renovation project in Manhattan, causing torn knee ligaments and a herniated disc
  • $2,650,000 settlement for a construction vehicle driver who suffered back injuries and a SLAP tear in his right shoulder after a scaffolding accident in the Bronx
  • $2,640,000 settlement for a non-union construction worker who was injured by a falling object when unsecured pipe scaffolding began to sway
  • $2,600,000 settlement for a 60-year-old worker who suffered serious knee and shoulder injuries after an accident which occurred while dismantling scaffolding
  • $2,200,000 recovery for a worker who suffered severe shoulder and back injuries while assembling a scaffold at a demolition site in Brooklyn
  • $2,000,000 settlement for a masonry worker who required arthroscopic ankle surgery after the scaffold plank he was standing on gave way
  • $1,950,000 settlement for a union carpenter who was hit by a falling object at his worksite and tumbled off a scaffold with no guardrails
  • $1,750,000 settlement for a worker who fell off a ladder which was on top of an unsteady Bake rolling scaffold at a construction site in Queens
  • $1,600,000 settlement for a Queens carpenter who suffered shoulder injuries, spinal injuries, and rib fractures after he fell off a rolling scaffold at his work site
  • $1,475,000 settlement for a laborer who sustained neck and back injuries after falling from a poorly-constructed scaffold when the bracing he was standing on came loose
  • $1,400,000 settlement for a 69-year-old asbestos handler who fell from a scaffold which had no guardrails at a high school in Rochester, New York

Call us today at 212-736-5300 – we serve all of New York State, including Buffalo, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Long Island and New York City.

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