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Electrical Hazards, Construction Sites and Your Legal Rights

State and federal laws set forth very specific rules and guidelines which govern the safety of construction sites, including the many electrical hazards that can be found at these locations. The goal is to protect workers from dangers that could lead to injuries and deaths.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrical hazards that are typically found at construction sites include those arising from:

  • Improper grounding
  • Exposed electrical parts
  • Inadequate wiring
  • Damaged insulation
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Damaged tools and equipment
  • Wet conditions
  • Contact with overhead power lines.

If you or a loved one has been injured by any one of these electrical hazards at a construction site, you may be entitled to a financial recovery for your injuries.

The following are two possible legal options:

Bringing an Electrical Accident Claim Under New York State Labor Law §200

Bringing an action in New York for an electrical accident at a construction site starts with New York Labor Law §200. This law codifies the common law rule that imposes a duty on construction site owners and contractors to protect the health and safety of  their workers.

Under Labor Law §200, the injured party must show that an owner or contractor had control over the construction site or the method and manner in which the work was performed.

Additionally, an injured worker or his or her surviving family members must be able to show that the owner had notice of the hazard which led to the worker’s injury.

This fact typically can be proven by showing that the owner had actual notice or constructive notice of the electrical hazard. Constructive notice means that the owner or contractor knew or should have known of the hazard.

Unlike other sections of New York’s Labor Laws, the construction site owner or other responsible party can use as a defense the worker’s own negligence and seek to avoid legal responsibility when an action is brought under Labor Law § 200.

For instance, this defense may involve showing that the worker was hurt by an open and obvious electrical hazard which the worker could have avoided.

Unlike bringing a claim under Labor Law §241(6) – please see below – a violation of an OSHA regulation in connection with an electrical hazard-related injury or death can be used as the basis for a lawsuit to recover damages for a construction worker’s injuries.

In other words, if any of OSHA’s regulations concerning electrical hazards are violated by the owner, contractor or their agents at your job site, it can be used as the basis for a claim for damages.

Bringing an Electrical Accident Claim Under New York State Labor Law §241(6)

New York State Labor Law §241(6) places a duty on owners, contractors and their agents to provide a safe and reasonable job site wherever construction, excavation or demolition work is done. This law also protects visitors to that job site who are lawfully present.

The law points to a regulation contained in the New York State Industrial Code at Rule 23. The rule addresses all hazards involving electricity as well as other dangerous conditions on job sites.

For instance, Rule 23  requires construction site owners, contractors and their agents – or “employers” – to take steps such as:

  • Determining the voltage levels of all energized power lines and power facilities around or near the construction site.
  • Notifying utility companies if their power lines will be affected at least five working days in advance of starting any work within 10 feet of any live overhead power line or before any excavation work is performed.
  • Investigating – before any work starts – whether any part of an electric power circuit – exposed or concealed – is located in an area that will expose a person, tool or machine to physical or electrical contact with the circuit while doing work. If so, the employer must put up “proper warning signs” and advise workers of where the circuits are located, the hazards they pose and what “protective measures” should be taken.
  • Grounding the frames and one pole of the electrical outputs for any portable electric power generators that are used at any construction, demolition or excavation job site.
  • Removing and throwing away any electrical wiring that has cracked insulation or insulation that is “deteriorated in any other way.”

The law states that no employer shall allow a worker “to work in such proximity to any part of an electric power circuit that he may contact such circuit in the course of his work unless the employee is protected against electric shock by de-energizing the circuit and grounding it or by guarding such circuit by effective insulation or other means.”

To recover damages in a §241(6) claim, a construction worker must be able to show that there was negligence or a failure to exercise reasonable care on the part of the owners, contractors or agents.

However, the employer’s notice of the dangerous condition leading to the injury does not need to be proven. A worker’s own negligence can, however, be used as a defense by the responsible party.

Is Construction Site Culture a Factor in Accidents?

Over the years, much concern has been raised about whether construction site culture has become a contributing factor in many of the construction site accidents, injuries and deaths throughout New York.

According to The Real Deal, the “macho” hardhat culture and competitive attitude exhibited by generations of construction workers, both in New York and throughout the country, has been viewed as almost part-and-parcel to the construction industry. As a result, those working in the construction industry often have developed a disregard for safety.

In 2013, 828 construction workers lost their lives in workplace or on-site accidents in the private sector, as reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This equals approximately 20.2 percent of the total worker fatalities in all private-sector industries that year.

The primary causes of these fatal accidents – also referred to as the “Fatal Four” – were:

  • Falls
  • Being struck by an object
  • Electrocutions
  • Being caught in or in-between an object or piece of machinery.

Wearing hard hats and correct footwear, using safety harnesses, wearing eye protection, only using proper equipment and tools for specific tasks, and following state and federal safety guidelines are a few of the ways workers can minimize the risk of serious injury on the job.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of site owners and general contractors to make sure their construction site “culture” is one that places a high value on the health and safety of workers – particularly those working at a substantial height.

How Does New York Law Mandate Safety at Construction Sites?

Construction site owners, contractors, and their agents are obligated under New York Labor Laws to take safety measures to protect workers and exercise reasonable precautions as a way of protecting employees and keeping them out of harm’s way. When safety is ignored or given a low priority by those in charge, workers suffer.

In cases where a worker is injured on the job or at a construction site due to the owners or contractors failing to fulfill their duties, the law gives that worker the right to pursue compensation for any injuries or losses sustained.

The “Scaffold Law” is a prime example. This New York law requires construction site owners, contractors and agents to take steps to ensure the safety of workers when a fall potential exists.

This law encompasses any type of safety device used to allow either workers or materials to ascend to elevated locations for work. It covers scaffolding, ladders, pulleys, and hoists. Failure on the part of the owner or contractors to fulfill this duty could be grounds for a lawsuit or claim if it leads to an injury or death.

Even a worker’s own negligence does not negate the duty an owner or contractor has to keep workers safe, and it cannot be used as a reason or defense to injury claims brought pursuant to the Scaffold Law. This clearly shows how much safety is considered to be the responsibility of owners, contractors, and their agents.

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured at a NY Construction Site?

Being injured while at work can have devastating consequences – particularly if your injuries are severe enough to prevent you from being able to continue working, maintain a decent standard of living or provide financial support to those you love.

Our law firm understands the ramifications of construction site injuries. This is why we are firmly committed to promoting safety in the New York construction industry. Protecting the rights of injured workers is a priority for our team and a fight that we unrelentingly pursue.

If you or a loved one has been injured at a construction site in Albany, Syracuse, or elsewhere in New York, contact our firm to find out how you can pursue damages through New York’s Labor Laws.

Getting Help from an Experienced Construction Site Accident Attorney

Unfortunately, construction sites throughout New York State feature many electrical hazards that have the real potential to injure or even kill construction workers, visitors, and passersby.

At Powers & Santola, LLP, we understand these dangers. We have the comprehensive knowledge and experience to fight for your legal rights as an injured party or a family that has lost a loved one to a construction site electrical hazard accident.

Our law firm has been helping injured workers and their families to recover the verdicts or settlements they deserve since 1987. We are committed to protecting your rights. To learn more, please contact us today by phone or through our online form.

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