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The Importance of New York's "Scaffold Law"

Day after day, New York's construction workers put their lives on the line. Many of these workers operate at dizzying heights to build the city's iconic skyline. New York's Labor Law 240, also called the "Scaffold Law" was enacted to protect these workers, who are at an increased risk of injury or death due to falls. The law protects workers who fall from height, as well as workers who may be struck by falling objects.

Why does the Scaffold Law matter?

The statute was enacted in recognition that workers who have to face the risks of falls and falling objects due to elevation-related differentials are thereby exposed to a greater likelihood of serious injuries and death. When workers trip and fall on level ground, they may be injured; but when workers fall from a ladder, scaffold or other elevation, the risk of serious injury or death is substantially increased.

How employers must ensure a trench is safe for workers

Trenches are a well-known hazard on construction sites, even smaller projects. In March, three construction professionals were injured while doing work in a trench just 4-5 feet deep. They were reportedly removing some tree stumps around a two-story structure when the trench collapsed.

Because of the elevated risk, use of a trench comes with strict safety protocols. That seems reasonable, considering just one cubic yard of dirt can weigh more than a Toyota Corolla and can easily injure or kill a worker. So whose responsibility is it to ensure on-site trenches meet safety mandates?

New health and safety rules as New York construction reopens

This summer, New York City entered Phase One of the state's Reopening Plan after construction shutdowns due to COVID-19. This means that construction work is resuming on sites that have appropriate permits and that follow the Interim Guidance for Construction Activities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency published by New York State.

Report: Latino, immigrant construction workers face extra dangers

In New York, Latino workers are in danger. A 2019 report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group, found Latinos make up a disproportionate number of worker fatalities in New York. They make up about 10% of the state’s workforce, yet account for 17% of worksite deaths.

Compounding this issue, the group argues, is concern over worksite safety. Latino workers, particularly those who are immigrants, are less likely to report safety violations. Because their livelihood is at stake, they may be worried about retaliation or negative consequences for reporting these issues. This means many of these Latino or immigrant workers may be more likely to work in unsafe conditions.

Safety violations lead to significant fine against contractor

A contractor overseeing a job site in Manhattan was fined nearly $40,000 for what the Department of Buildings (DOB) described as “multiple violating conditions.”

According to the DOB, inspectors to the site at 335 Grand Street noted a handful of worrying safety issues.

Charges: Bosses ignored safety concerns before deadly accident

In 2018, we wrote about the death of Luis Almonte Sanchez. The 47-year-old was doing foundation work at the construction site in Sunset Park when a 20-foot retaining wall collapsed, burying him under 15,000-45,000 pounds of brick and debris. Authorities couldn't recover his body until the next day due to the unsafe conditions.

More than a year later, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced an indictment charging three individuals responsible for safety compliance at the construction site. According to the indictment, they ignored warnings about dangerous conditions in the days before the fatal wall collapse.

Do non-union construction workers face more danger?

Unions are facing many challenges today, and New York City’s construction industry is no exception. A comptroller report estimates there are just over 400,000 construction workers in the city, the highest figure in the nation. Only about one quarter of those positions are held by union members.

This figure should be alarming. Not only is construction the most dangerous industry in the state, one report suggests working without the protection of a union is even more perilous.

Wall collapse kills 1, seriously injures another

One construction worker lost their life and another was seriously injured after a wall collapsed on a Manhattan work site.

According to an ABC 7 report, the two men were doing work on a mixed-use development on the Lower East Side the morning of Oct. 21, 2019. Around 10 a.m., a wall on the site crumbled, with bricks and rubble partially burying the two workers.

NYC pulls riggers' licenses after deadly scaffolding collapse

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) says two riggers ignored safety rules before a construction accident in June that killed one worker and is suspending their licenses as it investigates.

Carlos Olmedo Lala was on a section of pipe scaffolding outside a Manhattan building on June 22, installing new façade bricks and repairing existing ones. The scaffolding reached about 50 feet high, according to a report from the New York Daily News.

Construction worker falls 15 feet in latest incident on busy site

State and federal safety officials make it very clear: Falls are one of the deadliest types of accidents on construction sites. Despite this, fall protection standards were the most common type of violation in the industry during the most recent fiscal year, according to federal data.

In Brooklyn, a 45-year-old worker is lucky to be alive after a dangerous fall, the latest incident on a work site with a troubling recent history.

Case Results

Since 1965, we’ve recovered over $1 BILLION on behalf of our clients. read more
  • icon1

    $2.1 million settlement

    for 33-year old electrician who fell from ladder while attempting to fit heavy cable into crown box when cable sprung back and struck him, causing him to suffer left shoulder injury with impingement.

  • icon2

    $1.6 million settlement

    for 38-year old electrician who slipped and fell on debris on stairway with resulting cervical herniated disc and aggravation of pre-existing arthritic changes.

  • icon3

    $2.55 million settlement

    for 42-year old electrician who fell into an uncovered, unprotected hole and suffered a severe low back injury with herniated disc(s) that required surgery at L4-5 and L5-S1 levels.

  • icon4

    $1.75 million settlement

    for 26-year old construction worker who fell through opening in roof and fractured his wrist, requiring surgery with open reduction and internal fixation, external fixation device, and eventual fusion.

  • icon5

    $2.5 million settlement

    for 38-year old female electrician (with history of prior neck injury) who tripped on uneven Masonite protective floor covering, and suffered neck injury with herniated discs requiring cervical fusion.

  • icon6

    $1.2 million settlement

    during trial for 40-year old sheet metal worker who was struck in the neck and shoulder by an air conditioning unit and suffered herniated cervical discs and cervical radiculopathy.

*AV Preeminent is the highest rating of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell ratings fall into two categories - legal ability and general ethical standards.

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