The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Bronx contractor for several fall-related hazards in the November 2020 construction accident death of a 21-year-old laborer. According to an OSHA news release, the victim fell nearly 50 feet as he installed a supported tubular welded frame scaffold during the construction of a seven-story Brooklyn building.
Fall Safety Violations
Among the violations, OSHA found that the contractor failed to provide sufficient fall protection and training for its employees, the news release from the agency stated. The company initially contested the citations and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
However, the company has now agreed to pay $169,000 in penalties for two violations and two serious violations and affirms that it has corrected the cited violations. The company has also agreed to comply in the future with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In addition, the contractor has said they will enhance internal safety guidelines with regard to scaffold and fall protection, create a job hazard analysis for each job, implement a pre-shift safety meeting form and daily inspection checklist, and provide fall safety systems such as restraints to workers.
New York’s Scaffolding Law
New York’s Scaffolding Law (Section 240 of the New York Labor Law) requires contractors, owners and their agents to be responsible for providing necessary equipment such as scaffolds, ladders, hoists, stays, irons, ropes, blocks braces and other devices to keep workers safe from fall-related accidents. Since this law was enacted in the early part of the 20th century, workers injured in scaffolding accidents have had the ability to bring civil actions against the contractor and property owner/manager, etc. responsible for the safety of the jobsite.
Many construction workers in New York City such as ironworkers, steelworkers, carpenters, masons, bricklayers, painters, window washers, and electricians etc. suffer serious or even fatal injuries when they fall from an elevation. Typically such workers perform their tasks while on scaffolds, ladders, platforms, etc. Workers who fall off of a scaffold may suffer devastating head injuries, multiple broken bones or even paralysis as a result of spinal cord trauma. Workers may not be able to return to their jobs for an extended period of time. Some workers who suffer these types of injuries may never be able to return to the jobsite or even earn a livelihood.
Why Fall Safety Protection is Crucial
Worksites must have safety measures in place to prevent workers from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes or shafts. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in the construction industry and 8 feet in long shoring operations. Fall protection must also be provided when workers are operating over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
Contractors and construction companies must take precautions at construction sites including guarding floor holes and shafts into which workers can walk or fall. They must provide guardrails and toe boards around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway. They must also provide workers with fall protection devices such as safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railing and handrails. Workers must be given such safety equipment at no cost to them. They should also receive proper job training, safety training and proper supervision on the job.
Compensation for Injured Workers
Workers who have been injured in a ladder accident or scaffolding accident can seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. In addition, workers and their families may be able to file a third-party lawsuit for substantial money damages against a number of parties, and thus have two sources of compensation. Such claims are filed against parties other than the employers including but not limited to general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, etc. In cases where a worker dies from injuries suffered on the job, surviving family members may seek death benefits through workers’ compensation and/or file a wrongful death claim against a third party who may be held liable for the fatal incident.
If you have suffered injuries in a construction-related accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.
Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who was injured on the job — one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year. Our law firm also recovered $3,000,000 for a man who fell and suffered two broken legs when he walked into an open elevator shaft. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.
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