Construction accidents in New York can occur on nearly any construction site, and they can result from a wide range of safety issues. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), certain types of accidents more commonly result in serious and deadly injuries than others. Indeed, falls are the leading cause of death on construction sites, followed by struck-by accidents, caught-in or caught-between accidents, and electrocutions.
In 2020, OSHA reported that 351 falls from heights resulted in construction worker deaths and that all of those accidents were preventable. Construction site owners and employers have a duty to ensure that all safety measures are being used to prevent falls from heights. Not only can injured construction workers seek workers’ compensation coverage after a fall to a lower level, but it may be possible, in addition, to sue a negligent employer.
What do you need to know about New York construction accidents and falls from heights? Consider the following information from our experienced New York construction accident attorneys.
Preventing Construction Worker Falls from Heights
Falls from heights on construction sites are almost always avoidable with appropriate safety precautions and protocols. What should employers do to prevent falls from heights? OSHA recommends the following:
- Detailed plans should be developed before any construction work begins, and those plans should include specific safety equipment to prevent falls, and all safety equipment should be precisely tailored to the task involved in the construction work;
- Construction workers should always be provided with the appropriate safety equipment given the type of falls risk, which may include personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) and harnesses; and
- All construction workers should be properly trained to use any necessary safety equipment that is designed to prevent falls from heights or falls or lower levels.
Falls from Heights Versus Slips and Falls
It is important to know that statistics for serious and deadly fall accidents on construction sites include both falls from heights as well as slip and fall accidents. The safety measures that need to be taken to prevent falls from heights are distinct from those that need to be put in place to prevent slips and falls. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), slips and falls, or trips and falls, actually account for a higher rate of construction accident fatalities than falls to a lower level, although both types of falls frequently result in deaths. In terms of nonfatal injuries, falls to lower levels result in significantly more nonfatal injuries than slips and falls or trips and falls do. In fact, the rate of injuries caused by falls to lower levels has been increasing over the last several years according to BLS data.
While falls from heights require safety equipment designed to protect workers on roofs and scaffolding, slips and falls or trips and falls require safety protocols that are designed to prevent falls with very different causes. With falls from heights, construction workers often do not have guards or barriers that prevent them from falling off a roof or scaffolding. Differently, with trips and falls or slips and falls, construction workers get hurt when they encounter slick and wet or icy surfaces or areas with tripping hazards.
Seeking Compensation for a Construction Accident Fall in New York
When a construction worker gets hurt in a fall, that worker may have multiple options for seeking financial compensation. First, as with injuries at other types of New York workplaces, the construction worker may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. In New York, workers’ compensation provides coverage for medical care and wage replacement benefits at a percentage of the worker’s regular pay. Workers’ compensation can also pay disability benefits.
Beyond workers’ compensation, it is critical for construction workers and their families to know that New York often permits negligence lawsuits against construction site owners or employers. Under New York Labor Law, construction workers who are injured due to an employer’s negligence can file a lawsuit against the employer. For injuries caused by falls from heights, injured construction workers will typically file a lawsuit under Section 240 of New York Labor Law, which is known colloquially as the “scaffold law.”
Contact a New York Construction Accident Attorney
Anyone who has been injured on a New York construction site should discuss their case with an experienced New York construction accident lawyer who can help with the claims process. It may be possible to seek compensation through the New York workers’ compensation system, as well as to file a lawsuit under the New York Labor Law. An attorney at our firm can evaluate your case for you today and can discuss your options with you. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP to learn more about how we can assist you.