How Do Scaffolding Injuries Happen?

Sakkas Cahn & Weiss

Scaffolding injuries are ubiquitous in New York City. They’re notoriously dangerous to workers and non-worker pedestrians alike.

At any given time, there are usually around 13,000 active scaffolding permits active in New York City. That is a lot of opportunities for accidents and injuries to occur.

In fact, 2022 has been one of New York’s deadliest years for scaffolding fatalities. Worker falls account for the most deaths.

Here’s what you should know about these injuries in particular, and about construction accident cases in general.

Why are these injuries happening?

Table of Contents
#1) Scaffolding That Stays Up Too Long

New York City does fine buildings for failing to complete facade repairs in a timely fashion, but sometimes paying the fine is cheaper than doing the work.

In addition, scaffolding must be inspected and repaired every five years, which means sometimes it’s cheaper for buildings to leave scaffolding in place.

The longer scaffolding stays up, the greater the chances for falling debris hitting non-workers who must pass beneath the scaffolding every day. Sidewalk shelters help, but they do not prevent the problem.

Contractors could prevent the debris problem somewhat by spreading more debris nets. Still, it would be ideal if scaffolding could go up, the work could get done, and then it could all come right back down again as expediently as possible.

#2) Safety Violations

The fines for violating New York’s safety codes in regards to scaffolding are sometimes cheaper than the safety precautions themselves.

While it would be nice if all companies cared enough about human beings to pay for the precautions anyway, the hard truth is many just won’t. A second hard truth is that it only takes a handful of bad actors to create many tragedies.

What kinds of violations are we talking about here?

  • Missing guard rails
  • Missing toe boards
  • Missing or defective platform planks
  • Failure to provide ladders
  • Failing to secure scaffolding to buildings
  • Poor installs on base plates
  • Missing braces
  • Broken pins
  • Overloading the scaffolding

OSHA estimates that preventing scaffolding accidents could save 50 lives every year and prevent 4,500 injuries.

#3) Normal Risk Factors

Scaffolding is just dangerous in its own right. It’s even particularly dangerous for workers who are responsible for constructing the scaffolding in the first place. By the very nature of the work they’re dealing with an incomplete, somewhat unstable structure.

It is imperative for employers to provide workers with full safety equipment during this phase of construction. It’s also important for them to pay attention to procedure.

What is New York’s Scaffolding Law?

Section 240 of the New York Labor Law requires owners, leaseholders, and contractors to give proper protection to workers contributing to the “erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of a building or structure.” Scaffolding situated 20 feet or more above the ground must be equipped with safety railing that is a least 3 feet tall. The railing must be securely fastened to the scaffolding, and enclose the full length of both sides of the scaffold.

The scaffold must also be capable of holding more than four times its maximum weight.

Owners and contractors who fail in these duties are held to a strict liability standard if a worker is injured or killed while working on scaffolding. That means they can’t pass the responsibility back to the worker and must pay for the damages. When negligence is present, workers may press both for a workers compensation claim and for a personal injury claim.

New York’s scaffolding law is unique. We are the only state to impose an absolute liability standard on gravity-related construction accidents.

Injured in a construction accident? Get help today.

New York has a three year statute of limitations on construction accidents, but you will want to move faster than that if you’ve been injured. The longer you wait, the harder it is to gather evidence and secure witness testimony. As your final settlement should always wait until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement and healing can take some time, you’ll want to move as quickly as possible.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a construction or scaffolding accident, you’ll want to move quickly all the same reasons. These companies do not care that you are grieving or that you have lost a major source of income for your family. They’d rather not pay you, and they’ll do everything in their power to avoid paying if possible.

Securing the help of experienced personal injury attorneys is the only way you can guarantee that you will both get a settlement at all, and that you’ll be able to maximize it.

Reach out to our office to get started today.

See also:

Audit Finds NYC Department of Buildings is Failing to Protect Construction Workers on Building Sites

Workers’ Compensation Benefits May Not Be Your Only Remedy if Injured on the Job

How to Help Your Lawyer Make Money in Your Personal Injury Case

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