It’s no secret construction is one of the most dangerous fields to work in, but what might be less known is workers in New York have specific legal protection under specific sections of the state’s labor law. Unfortunately, construction accidents happen more often than we’d like to hear about. In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 20 workers died in New York City from construction-related accidents. These statistics are discouraging, especially when you consider The New York City Buildings Department reports there have been 287 construction-related injuries and five fatalities in the five boroughs during the first six months of 2019.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that mandates safety requirements and tracks worker injuries and deaths across the U.S., reports the “fatal four” accidents in the U.S. construction industry include:
- Falls (39.2%)
- Struck by an object (8.2%)
- Electrocutions (7.3%)
- Caught-in/Between (caught or crushed by equipment, structures, or materials) 5.1%
According to OSHA, these injuries account for 20.7% of all worker fatalities across all industries in the nation. Fortunately, New York construction workers, including independent contractors, have strong legal protection to recoup for their injuries. All construction workers should be familiarized and understand New York Labor Law Section 240 (also known as the “Scaffolding Law”), along with Sections 200 and 241, which also provide protection for New York construction workers.
A Synopsis of New York Labor Laws
New York State designates laws to provide specific protection to workers who are injured on construction worksites. These laws provide protection for injuries or fatalities occurring at commercial worksites which includes: preparation, demolition, repairs, or alterations.
“Any worker sustaining an injury at a New York construction site should consult with an attorney to determine if the accident is covered under Sections 200, 240, or 241 of New York State Labor Law.”Brian O’Dwyer, Construction Accident Lawyer – O’Dwyer & Bernstien
New York Labor Law 200
New York Labor Law 200 protects the rights of both workers and any visitors to the job site. It is structured to ensure construction company owners and contractors take reasonable steps to give workers a safe working environment. According to this section of New York State Labor Law, it is the general duty of owners and contractors to make certain all equipment, machinery, and devices are positioned, operated, and guarded in a secure manner. Section 200 also provides protection for visitors and indicates the job site must have adequate lighting and guardrails. If officials discover a dangerous situation, notice is placed to warn all workers and visitors of the danger. Placement of this notice means any equipment, machinery, or devices are prohibited from use until the problem is corrected and the notice is removed.
New York Labor Law 240
Section 240 of New York State Labor Law, the “Scaffolding Law”, protects the rights of construction workers who suffer a fall or are struck by a falling object. This legal requirement mandates construction owners and contractors to provide scaffolding and other safety measures to protect workers. Reasonable steps include scaffolding, hoists, ladders, slings, hangers, pulleys, ropes, and stays, to name a few. In the event an accident has occurred, an attorney can examine the situation and determine if the injury is covered under Section 240.
New York Labor Law 241
Section 241 specifically refers to construction situations involving demolition, excavation, and safety equipment. Under this section of New York State Labor Law, owners and contractors must take reasonable steps to provide adequate safety provisions for their workers. Section 241 directly addresses how floors are constructed during the building progresses and the materials to be used, along with elevators and any type of hoisting apparatus. This legal provision also mandates owners and contractors will arrange equipment in such a way to maximize the safety of construction workers and any visitors to the job site.
Understanding the Eligibility Requirements of New York Labor Law 240
It’s important to understand the differences in these three sections of the New York State Labor Law. Sections 200 and 241 outline a general overview of what’s covered which means there is room for legal interpretation. However, Section 240, the Scaffolding Law, is very specific and courts tend to be stricter when it comes to interpreting this law. The reasoning for this is because Section 240 allows for injured parties to recover more than they would be allowed to under common law or workers’ compensation.
For instance, under Section 240, a worker must have been working on a structure which is legally defined as a building. However, the definition of a building is broad because it includes other types of structures, such as bridges, boats, subway tunnels, and garages. Section 240 also excludes owners of one and two-family dwellings who do not control the work being performed from responsibility, unless they took direct oversight of a project. Owners of larger residential or commercial buildings are automatically liable if an accident occurs under Section 240.
Section 240 is very clear it only covers specific types of construction work. This includes:
- Building erection
- Demolition work
- Pointing a building
- Erections of safety measures including blocks, braces, hoists, ladders, pulleys, or related types of equipment
The law is also very explicit in that it relates only to construction, and excludes activities related to maintenance, manufacturing, or decorative work on a structure. Pedestrians, motorists, or other passersby to a worksite are also not covered under Section 240.
You can read more about scaffolding accidents from our Scaffolding Accident Prevention Guide.
Does Filing a Claim Under Sections 200, 240, or 241 Affect Workers’ Compensation?
If you file legal action under New York State Sections 200, 240, or 241 this won’t affect your eligibility to file for workers’ compensation. If you, or a loved one, were injured under any of the negligent conditions set by these three New York State Labor Law mandates, you can file both an injury claim and for workers’ compensation.
It’s important to know the defendant (owner, contractor, or another party) is likely to aggressively fight back against any claims filed against them under the Scaffold Law or Sections 200 and 241. Consulting with a construction accident lawyer who is knowledgeable and well-versed in the complexities associated with New York State Labor Law will ensure your rights are protected.
I Was Injured In A Scaffolding Accident – What Now?
If you or someone you love were injured in a scaffolding-related accident, you deserve justice for the pain and suffering from your injury.
“The experienced attorneys at O’Dwyer & Bernstien have been fighting for the rights of New York Construction Accident Workers for over 100 years! They have the knowledge and expertise to protect you and your loved ones. To learn more call 212-571-7100 today for a free consultation.”Brian O’Dwyer, Construction Accident Lawyer – O’Dwyer & Bernstien