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New York Construction Law

New-York-Construction-Law

Attorney Daniel R. Santola writes in his book, Litigating Construction Accident Cases in New York, that our state’s building progress “has not been measured just by how high our skyscrapers have become but also by our state’s firm commitment to the protection of its workers.”

This commitment is reflected in New York State’s labor laws. These laws require construction site owners and contractors to ensure the safety of workers. If they fail to do so, these laws give workers the right to seek just compensation.

If you have been injured at a construction site or lost a family member in a construction accident in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, you should learn more about these laws by contacting an experienced construction law attorney from Powers & Santola, LLP. We can provide a timely, free and confidential consultation.

New York State Labor Law § 240(1)

Labor Law § 240(1) is also called New York’s “Scaffold Law.” It requires construction site owners, contractors and their agents to ensure the safety of workers who perform tasks in a location, or in a manner, where they could fall from one level to another. If the owner or contractor fails to fulfill this duty, and a worker suffers injury or death as the result of this failure, the owner or contractor can be sued for damages.

An owner, contractor or its agent (such as a subcontractor) cannot escape liability by turning control, supervision or direction of the work over to another party. If a party leases property and contracts to have construction work done on it, that party can be held liable as well.

The law protects workers who have been hired to work “in the furtherance of” erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure and who are exposed to “gravity-related risks.” Whether a worker’s own negligence contributed to an injury cannot be used as a defense.

The safety devices mandated by the law include scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes and other devices that are used to allow both workers and materials to reach elevated locations.

Labor Law § 240(1) does not impose a duty on owners of one- and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not control work done on their property. It also does not impose liability on professional architects and engineers. However, an injured worker may still have the right to bring a claim against those parties based on contract language or other duties arising under the law that were neglected.

New York State Labor Law § 241(6)

This law is similar to Labor Law § 240(1). It places a duty on owners, contractors and their agents. They cannot avoid this duty by giving supervision of a work site to another party.

The duty imposed by Labor Law § 241(6) is the duty to provide a safe and reasonable job site wherever construction, demolition or excavation work is done. The law protects not only workers but also any other person “lawfully frequenting” a job site.

The goal of the law is to ensure that owners, contractors and their agents comply with the specific, positive safety requirements of the New York State Industrial Code, specifically Rule 23 of the Code. This rule addresses hazards involving:

  • Falling (including falls from heights and slip-and-falls)
  • Falling objects and materials
  • Operation of vehicles
  • Operation of construction, demolition and excavation machinery
  • Fires and explosions
  • Electricity
  • Dangerous tools, machines and materials
  • Handling and movement of heavy materials
  • Exposure to the elements and air contaminants.

To recover under a § 241(6) claim, a person must show negligence, or a failure to exercise reasonable care. In this sense, unlike a § 240(1) claim, a worker’s negligence can be used as a defense. However, an injured worker does not need to prove that an owner or contractor had notice of a hazardous condition on the job site.

Additionally, even though safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) play an important role in protecting workers, a violation of OSHA rules cannot be used to support a § 241(6) claim.

New York State Labor Law § 241-a

The purpose of Labor Law § 241-a is to protect construction workers from falling (or being hit by objects that fall) a distance of more than one story through elevator shafts, hatchways or stairwells.

To protect against these risks, the law requires owners, contractors and their agents to provide “sound planking at least two inches thick” across the opening at levels not more than two stories above and not more than one story below the workers and to follow other rules specified in the New York State Industrial Code.

The law is similar to § 240(1) in many ways. First, it protects workers from falls or being hit by falling objects. It also imposes a duty that cannot be passed off to another party, and a worker’s negligence cannot be used as a defense. However, a claim under § 241-a must be filed separate and apart from § 240(1).

New York State Labor Law § 200

Labor Law § 200 codifies the common law duty that owners and contractors have to protect the health and safety of workers. The law is different in many ways from the other laws discussed above. For instance, to recover under § 200 claim, a person must show that the owner or contractor had control over the work site or the manner and method in which the work was performed. Also, a person must prove that the owner had notice of the hazard that led to a worker’s injury.

The notice requirement can be established by showing that the owner had actual notice or constructive notice – in other words, the owner or contractor should have discovered the hazard after conducting a reasonable inspection of the site.

Additionally, unlike the other laws, a worker’s negligence can be raised as a defense. For instance, if it is shown that a worker was hurt by an “open and obvious hazard” the worker could have avoided, a recovery may be barred.

An OSHA violation could be used to support a claim under Labor Law § 200.

Contact a New York Construction Law Attorney

As the above indicates, New York has several laws that are aimed at protecting workers. These laws give workers the right to be free of hazards at their jobs – and to recover compensation if they are hurt by such hazards. However, as you can see, these laws are complex. This is why you should seek experienced legal help after a construction accident.

The attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, have a long history of standing up for the rights of injured construction workers and their families in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout New York State. Allow us to put our skill and experience to work for you by calling us today or reaching us online. You can schedule a free consultation about your case.