Scaffolds are used in virtually every major construction project. They are temporary structures that are built onsite to give workers elevation and access to all parts of the building. An estimated 65 percent of construction workers perform their duties on or from a scaffold, much of the time at extreme heights. Slip-and-fall accidents on scaffolds can be fatal, and many die due to falls from scaffolds every year. These accidents usually can be avoided so long as hazards are addressed immediately and with the appropriate measures. However, it is not uncommon that safety violations are committed, either by employees or employers. Injured victims may be entitled to compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result.
The attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP have over two decades of experience handling cases for workers and families of workers in the construction industry. They understand that if you have been injured in a fall from a scaffold, you will be faced with costly medical bills, loss of present and future income, and a long and painful period of recovery. For a free consultation, call us at (212) 986-7353.
There are many ways in which scaffolds can experience structural failure and they are all connected to human error. They include the following:
- Scaffolding is not stabilized or secure;
- Scaffolding is assembled incorrectly;
- Scaffolding is built without handrails or guards;
- Scaffolding is not kept in good condition; and
- Scaffolding has not been adequately tested.
All of the above can lead to scaffolding collapse, failure, and deterioration. Accidents can also occur due to slippery or loose scaffolding.
There are special Labor Laws & established in New York State that give workers the right to expect a safe working environment and, if they suffer an injury due to negligence, compensation for the damages. The specific provisions which address worker issues are:
- Section 200: Requires employers and contractors, along with their agents, to provide a safe working environment for employees. This provision also holds them liable in a workplace injury incident.
- Section 240: Details measures that must be taken to prevent falls and injuries.
- Section 241(6): Defines compliance with the New York State Industrial Code and establishes liability for any violations of the Code.
The full text of the provisions can be found through a search of New York State's Labor Laws. You can also receive a comprehensive understanding of these provisions with the assistance of an attorney.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) might have been formed in 1970, but it was in 1971 that Congress turned their full attention on scaffolding accidents and namely, trying to avoid them. In 1996, Congress revised the "Safety Requirements for Scaffolding 1910.28" to identify three main points of scaffolding safety, and these requirements are still being used today.
Unfortunately, not all companies and workplaces take the time to ensure that these identified areas are as safe as possible, which can lead to scaffolding accidents. And it's important that the victims of those accidents know what the requirements are, so that they can seek compensation for negligence, if necessary. The three main points identified by the OSHA in proper scaffolding use are:
- Proper training. Every individual working on scaffolding should have full knowledge about the scaffolding they are on – when to move on it, what the dangers are, and how to remain safe while on it.
- Ladders and guardrails. Ladders and guardrails of varying sizes will be required on scaffolding of different sizes, but all scaffolding 10 feet or more off the ground does require proper and functional ladders and guardrails to be installed.
- Proper personal protective equipment (PPE). The most important PPE for scaffolding workers to wear is fall protection, typically in the form of a harness. This PPE must be worn by all workers any time they are on the scaffolding.
These requirements apply to all types of scaffolding, of which there are three.
- Supported scaffolding. The platforms on these scaffolds are supported by poles or frames, which helps keep them steady. These are the most common type of scaffolds found on construction sites.
- Suspended scaffolding. These scaffolds have platforms too, but instead of holding steady on poles, they are actually suspended from above with wires or ropes. This type of scaffolding is used by window washers.
- Aerial lifts. These are more commonly referred to as "cherry pickers", but they are in fact a type of scaffolding. They are actually lifts that are mounted onto a vehicle, and are most often used when a person needs to be lifted, but typically not at very high distances. Utility companies sometimes use these when working on wires.
Part of the new requirements compliance laws state that every employer should have "a competent person" present any time scaffolding is going to be used. This individual is to inspect the scaffolding before it's used to ensure that it is safe, and this person also needs to be present any time the scaffolding is erected, moved, dismantled, or altered. This competent person is also responsible for making sure that any person working on the scaffolding is wearing the PPE provided by the employer. These daily inspections will be in addition to the regular inspections performed by OSHA.
While it's easy for workers to blame the employer when a scaffolding accident has taken place, employers are not always at fault. There can be a number of parties responsible in scaffolding accidents including subcontractors, manufacturers, leasing companies, vendors, and equipment designers.
Different types of scaffolding are used for different purposes on New York construction sites. Regardless of the type of scaffolding used, safety regulations and precautions must be rigorously observed to prevent tragic accidents. Common types of scaffolding include:
- Tubular steel scaffolding: This construction is sturdier than wood scaffolding. Manufacturer recommendations must be followed in erecting the scaffold, and all connections must be seated and locked properly.
- Wood scaffolding: It is crucial that each wood scaffold is designed to carry the full load of the work being done – including workmen, building materials, tools and equipment, and the weight of the scaffold itself. Lumber used in constructing wood scaffolding must be of good quality.
- Rolling Scaffolds/Baker Scaffolds: Rolling scaffolds are designed to be portable. Caster brakes or wheel locks should be in use at all times when rolling scaffolds are not being moved. Workmen should not ride rolling scaffolds while in motion or attempt to move them by pulling on overhead structures. All items and equipment on a rolling scaffold should be removed or secured before the scaffold is moved.
- Pole scaffolds: There are two categories of pole scaffolds – light trades and heavy trades. The light trades category includes painters, carpenters, and other trades that do not bring heavy loads to the scaffold platform. Steel workers, stone masons, bricklayers, and concrete workers are included in the heavy trades category.
Under the NYC Building Code, adjustable and non-adjustable suspended scaffolds are subject to installation inspection. Inspection is required when the scaffold is installed at the site, when it is relocated to a new drop, or when any part or attachment is added, relocated, or removed.
The scaffolding inspection must be performed by:
- A licensed rigger (or a licensed a licensed sign hanger if the scaffold is to be used exclusively for sign hanging);
- A rigging foreman employed and designated by a licensed rigger (or a sign hanging foreman employed and designated by a licensed sign hanger, if the scaffolding is to be used exclusively for sign hanging);
- A professional engineer or architect licensed or registered in the state of New York; or
- A person employed and supervised by a licensed engineer or registered architect in the state of New York.
However, when the integrity of the scaffolding support surface is in question or when parapet clamps are used, a New York State licensed engineer or registered architect must perform the inspection.
New York construction workers are injured in scaffold accidents every year. Scaffolds are often constructed at significant heights, and falls from heights – or falling objects dropped from scaffolds -- can cause catastrophic or fatal injuries. The types of injuries common in scaffold accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury (causing paraplegia or quadriplegia)
- Back and neck injuries
- Arm and elbow injuries
If you have been injured on the job, the workers' compensation insurance company may refuse or try to lessen the amount of your claim. Your injuries may have been preventable if the contractor or property owner had followed the appropriate OSHA safety guidelines and had provided the required safety training. The top NY construction accident attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP can help you file your claim and handle an appeal if necessary. We can help determine who is responsible for your injuries and obtain the compensation you deserve on your behalf. Contact us today.
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NY Scaffolding Accident Verdicts & Settlements
$7.25 Million - Scaffold Defect
$3.375 Million - Non-Union Laborer Injured in Scaffold Fall
$3.2 Million - Union Worker Falls from Scaffold
$3 Million - Fall Off of a Scaffold
$2.95 Million - Worker Falls From Scaffold
$2.5 Million - Scaffold Accident Crane Collapse
$2.2 Million - Scaffolding Accident
$1.3 Million - Man Killed in Fall From Scaffolding