Forklift Accidents At New York City Construction Sites: Legal Remedies

Forklift use at New York construction sites is heavily regulated.

In the month of June 2014 alone, New York City experienced two fatal construction-site accidents that involved forklifts. First, 22-year-old Gustavo Tapia was reportedly crushed against a wall in Brooklyn when trying to push a manned, electric forklift up a ramp. The next week, 54-year-old Min Baz Sik died after a forklift apparently fell onto his chest at a Queens construction site.

Forklift Basics

Forklifts are small trucks designed to pick up heavy loads using extending and lifting arms or "forks" that protrude from the fronts of the vehicles. These extensions essentially scoop up freight, hold it while the vehicle carries it while moving to another location and then let the load down at the desired destination.

The New York Industrial Code

Forklifts used in construction, demolition or evacuation jobs are heavily regulated by the New York Department of Labor's Industrial Code, a series of industrial safety rules. The Industrial Code has a long, detailed regulation history devoted completely to safety requirements for "lift and fork trucks" in construction. This forklift regulation has been in force since 1972.

Forklift Regulation

Areas in which forklift safety is regulated in the New York rule include:

  • Load capacity labeling
  • Load capacity compliance
  • Brakes
  • Even-surface operations
  • Hand-lift handle safety devices
  • Masonry unit packaging integrity
  • Loose masonry spillage protection
  • Pallet support and loading
  • Operator protection
  • Prohibited uses
  • Riding on forks
  • Audible warning devices
  • And more

In addition, federal workplace safety rules regulate forklift operations in great detail, including "fire protection, design, maintenance and use," as well as operator training and certification, use around hazardous dust or materials, labeling, modification, protective equipment, fuel and battery handling, carbon monoxide output, loading, operation, maintenance and more.

Legal Remedies For New York Forklift Accidents At Construction Sites

Construction workers injured on the job in accidents involving forklifts should file for workers' compensation for these work-related injuries. In addition, however, New York Labor Law allows an injured construction worker to file a lawsuit for injury when it was caused by the failure of the employer, owner, contractor or other responsible party to comply with certain safety regulations issued by the Department of Labor.

Violation of the Industrial Code's forklift safety provisions can provide the basis for such a lawsuit, and anyone who was injured in a forklift construction accident should consult with an experienced New York personal injury attorney with construction accident experience.

Legal counsel can also evaluate whether other legal claims may exist under federal law, premises liability or defective product liability.

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