I Work on Scaffolding. What Are My Rights?

Construction work dangers increase when you work at heights. Scaffolds present an additional risk. They are temporary structures. They may be unstable due to design, erection or weather conditions.

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Workers on scaffolding also face the risk of falls, being struck by objects or being electrocuted.

A worker injured on scaffolding has the right to pursue damages under New York Labor Law. These damages can include past and future:

  • Medical, hospital and rehabilitative services
  • Loss or impairment of income and fringe benefits
  • Pain and suffering (including loss of enjoyment of life).

Types of Scaffolding Accidents

Construction workers may be injured due to scaffolding accidents such as:

  • Falls

    These accidents can occur if sides, edges and floor openings of scaffolding are unprotected. In a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study, 72 percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed it to the planking or support giving way. Roughly 20 percent of fatal falls in the construction industry involve scaffolding.

  • Collapse

    Scaffolding can collapse during erection, use or dismantling. A collapse can injure anyone on, under or near the scaffolding. A scaffold may also collapse if it is subjected to more weight than it is designed to bear. Scaffolding that is not based on a firm foundation, properly braced or tied to the building may collapse in high winds.

  • Being Struck by Objects

    Tools, material and debris that fall from scaffolding can injure people below. Even small objects that hit someone's uncovered head after falling from height can cause death or a serious head injury. Large items may leave a worker crushed, pinned or caught under them. Power tools that do not have safeguards in place can eject material that flies or falls and strikes workers near scaffolding.

  • Electrocution

    Metal scaffolding that comes into contact with live power lines can electrocute or burn anyone close to the connection. Scaffolding should not be erected near power lines unless there is absolute certainty that the power lines are dead and will remain so.

Types of Scaffolding Accident Claims

If you have been injured at a New York construction site while you were working on scaffolding, you may have several options for a recovery under New York Labor Law. These options include:

  • Labor Law § 240(1)

    If your injury was the direct consequence of the failure of an owner, contractor or agent to provide "adequate protection" from a "physically significant elevation differential," you can bring a claim under this statute. For example, this statute may apply if you suffered harm from a fall, scaffold collapse or being struck by a falling object.

  • Labor Law § 240(2)

    You may seek a recovery specifically under this section if you were working on scaffolding or staging more than 20 feet above the ground or floor. This section would apply if you were hurt because the scaffolding lacked a safety rail made of suitable material that was properly attached to the scaffolding at least 34 inches above the floor and along the outside edge. You may also seek damages under this section if the scaffold failed to bear your weight.

  • Labor Law § 241(6)

    You can pursue a recovery under this statute if your scaffold accident occurred due to the violation of a specific safety requirement set out in Rule 23 of the New York State Industrial Code. These provisions deal specifically with scaffolding, electricity, use of machinery and tools, safety railings and safety harnesses. For example, § 23-5 sets out requirements for scaffolding at construction sites.

  • Labor Law § 200

    To recover under this section, you would need to show that the construction site owner, contractor or agent had notice of the dangerous condition you faced on the scaffolding and had the authority to control or supervise your work. In contrast to a § 241(6) claim, you could base your claim on a violation of OSHA regulations. For example, OSHA has a comprehensive set of regulations that govern the erection, use and dismantling of scaffolding.