A New York Construction Accident Lawyer Who Represents Injured Workers Tracking Developments in Construction Accident Law.

New York has a strong law that protects workers who are injured due to falling from a defective ladder or scaffold, or another type of gravity-related accident. It’s codified as New York Labor Law, section 240(1) and it’s commonly referred to as the “Scaffold Law.”

Each year in the New York legislature it is under attack from business and insurance interests and this year is no different. But it’s a very important law that needs to be kept in place.

The Labor Press published a June 11, 2013 piece illustrating that it is a vital protection for New York construction workers who suffer on-the-job accidents. It profiles 28-year-old construction worker Chris Gunn, an ironworker who fell 25 feet and landed on his head when a beam he was helping to install came loose. He is now paralyzed and has brain damage. If safety lines had been put in place, his injuries could have been prevented.

If the Scaffold Law was not in effect, he would likely be left in the care of the state, rather than with his family.

According to the article, “From 2009 to 2011, there were 102 construction worker deaths in New York State, according to NYCOSH. In 2011, over 700 construction workers died nationwide … being a roofer is twice as dangerous as being a cop. ”

As such, the Scaffold Law is a crucial law supporting worker safety.

Some misconceptions about the Scaffold Law are that it allows a careless or negligent worker to win his lawsuit. However, as the law is interpreted by courts, the worker will not prevail if he is the “sole, proximate cause” of the accident. That means that there must have been something wrong with the ladder or scaffold being used in the accident in order for the worker to recover. If the worker is truly the only factor in the accident, he will not prevail.

The law is also criticized by business and insurance groups because it makes owners and general contractors liable even if they are not negligent. But this encourages safety from the “top down.” A worker’s employer is not liable for his accident under the Worker’s Compensation law. Thus, if only the employer is liable, construction workers like Chris Gunn will not receive the compensation they need and deserve.

Significantly, from a policy standpoint, if owners and general contractors are not held liable, it encourages unsafe and shoddy construction practices, because at the end of the day, if there is an accident, no one will have to pay except for worker’s compensation. The cheapest and fastest contractors will be hired and worker safety will take a backseat. Unfortunately, only if owners and general contractors have some skin in the game will safety rank high in importance at a construction site.

So for workers out there, whether in construction or another field, the message is clear: support the Scaffold Law. Attempts to repeal it are just another salvo in the persistent attempt on many different fronts to eliminate worker’s rights.




One Response to “Keep the New York Scaffold Law”

  1. David Glenn says:

    In the first place none of this will happen if there is no negligence in any party involved. It could be the business owner’s fault or the other way around. But the best thing to do is prioritize the safety of all the workers first.

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