I Work with Power Tools – What Are My Rights?

Power tools are a necessity in today's construction industry. But power tools that make construction work easier also put workers at risk of injury.

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If you have been injured in a power tool accident at construction site in New York, you may be entitled to compensation under the state's Labor Laws.

Types of Power Tool Accidents

Common types of power tool accidents at construction sites are:

  • Electrical shock / burn

    If there is something wrong with a power tool, the electrical system or circuit, a short can carry electrical current from the tool to the person holding it. High amp electrical equipment such as floor sanders, heat guns, heaters and blowers can overload circuits in older buildings and cause shock or electrocution. Frayed cords can expose workers to electrical currents. Water conducts electricity. A worker that touches an electric tool that is wet or while they are wet (including from sweat) or while standing on a wet surface runs a risk of being electrocuted.

  • Accidental start

    A power tool that starts unexpectedly may cut into a worker's flesh or fall from his grip and strike the worker or another person below. Power tools should be unplugged when not in use and when changing accessories such as blades or bits. Workers should never hold their fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool.

  • Flying objects

    Power tools can malfunction and eject parts, nails, wood slivers or other debris that can strike a worker. Sharp items can pierce skin or unprotected eyes. Heavy pieces can cause blunt-force impact injuries. A worker hit or threatened by flying debris could be knocked back or pull back and fall.

  • Overexertion

    The continuous vibration of power tools can injure a construction worker's hands, wrists or arms over an extended period of time. Overexertion may cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Wood dust exposure

    Table saws, belt sanders, routers and shapers produce a lot of saw dust. Workers exposed to wood dusts have experienced a variety of adverse health effects, including eye and skin irritation, allergies, reduced lung function, asthma and nasal cancer. Power tools should have exhaust hoods or similar components to remove wood dust from the atmosphere that the user breathes.

  • Carbon monoxide exposure

    Gasoline-powered tools such as high-pressure washers, concrete cutting saws, power trowels, floor buffers, welders, pumps, compressors and generators produce carbon monoxide. This is a poison that can rapidly build up to dangerous or fatal concentrations within minutes.

  • Trip-and-fall accidents

    Power tool cords and extension cords present a tripping hazard if they cross walkways. Falls can lead to sprains, strains, fractures and back and head injuries.

Types of Power Tool Accident Claims

If you have been injured at a New York construction site while you were working with power tools, you may pursue compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering under several sections of New York Labor Law, including:

  • Labor Law § 240(1) and (2)

    If you were injured by a falling tool or suffered a fall from an elevated area due to tool incident, you may be eligible to assert a claim under this section. Keep in mind that you would need to show that the failure to provide you with proper safety devices in order to protect you from an elevation-related risk would need to be shown, or else you would need to show that your injury resulted from a failure to meet the statute's specific scaffolding requirements.

  • Labor Law § 241(6)

    You can pursue compensation under this section if your power tool accident was caused by the violation of a safety rule found in Rule 23 of the New York State Industrial Code. Several parts of this code deal with tools may apply to your case, including:

    • 23-1.10 – Hand tools
    • 23-1.11 – Lumber and nail fastenings
    • 23-1.12 – Guarding of power-driven machinery
    • 23-1.13 – Electrical hazards.
      • For example, your injury may have been caused by a contractor's failure to take required steps to provide you with a saw that was fitted with a blade guard.
  • Labor Law § 200

    If you can establish that the owner, contractor or agent had actual notice of a dangerous condition, or should have had notice based upon an inspection of the power tool or the site where it was used, and you were injured as the result of this dangerous condition, you may be able to recover under this statute.

    You will also need to show that the owner, contractor or agent had the authority to supervise or control you work. In addition to the New York Industrial Code, you can support your claim by showing a violation of one or more of OSHA regulations governing the use of power tools to support a claim.