Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

Construction sites are one of the most dangerous workplaces in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of people suffer injuries related to construction projects every year, and many of these New York construction accidents involve elevators and similar hoisting devices. Elevators, hoists, hung scaffolds, and false cars present many serious dangers. Those that suffer injuries on these devices may face lifelong disability and even death.

For instance, a recent news report described a tragic elevator accident at a New York construction site. Officials report that a construction site worker fell from the 16th floor of a hospital that is under construction. He took a hoist elevator to the 16th floor, and witnesses reported that they saw the victim fall to the ground. Sadly, rescue attempts were futile as the man died at the scene of the accident.

Construction site elevator accidents can occur while an elevator is under construction or when workers are utilizing it on site. The majority of New York elevator accidents occur because of mechanical or technical failure. In many situations, a defect in the pulley system can cause the elevator or hoist to drop at high rates, causing blunt force trauma or crushing. Similarly, people often suffer injuries by falling into an elevator shaft. Although safety protocols mandate that these areas are marked, the danger may not be marked in some situations, or it may be ignored.

Construction sites are necessary for the growth and prosperity of New York; however, they are also some of the most dangerous workplaces. New York construction site accidents take the livelihood and lives of many workers every year. Despite the harrowing realities of construction site accidents, workers’ compensation laws limit how much an employee can recover against their employer. However, many accidents stem from more than one party’s negligence, and in these cases, construction site victims can file a third-party lawsuit against the liable party.

For instance, a recent New York excavator accident illustrates a situation where a third-party may be responsible for the worker’s death. In that case, a worker died after his excavator flipped into a river, trapping the man in bitterly cold waters for hours. Emergency crews’ efforts to rescue the man were unsuccessful, and the man succumbed to his injuries. Police reported that the excavator toppled when it got close to the water. An investigation is ongoing; however, the company involved did not comment on the accident. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records indicate that the company has a prior incident report.

Negligent third-parties may include property owners, contractors, and subcontractors. Additionally, in situations where the accident stemmed from defective equipment, the equipment manufacturer might be liable. Further, in New York, many third-party construction accident claims stem from electrical accidents, scaffolding incidents, untrained workers, and defective safety equipment.

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places, and construction employers, general contractors, property managers, and owners must take the appropriate steps to ensure that their sites are safe to prevent accidents. New York construction workers and those lawfully around the vicinity of construction sites have the right to a safe environment. The failure to maintain a safe construction site can result in disastrous situations.

For example, a local news source reported a New York construction accident resulting from a broken crane. According to reports, the crane was positioned at a luxury high-rise building. The arm of the crane was dismantled and was hanging before it collapsed. The Department of Buildings is continuing its preliminary investigation to determine the cause of the collapse. Those that suffer injuries after a New York construction site accident may hold the responsible parties liable for their damages.

According to the Center for Construction Research and Training (CRT), construction workers experience at least one work-related injury during their employment and have a greater risk of premature death. Every year, nearly 80,000 construction workers suffer work-related injuries requiring them to miss work. Often, workers are discouraged from missing work, and they continue to work, exacerbating their injuries. In some situations, construction workers cannot sue their direct employer for workplace injuries; however, there are exceptions to this rule. Regardless of whether the injury victim is an employer or bystander, the individual should take steps to preserve their right to recovery.

New York construction law places extensive obligations on property owners and general contractors to provide a safe work environment. The New York Labor Law (NYLL) allows workers and others to file civil suits for damages if violations of safety requirements cause injury. These claims can be made in addition to claims under the common law of negligence. Section 241(6) of the NYLL codifies the set of safety regulations known as the Industrial Code. Recent court decisions from New York Appellate Courts demonstrate how workers in New York State can assert claims for injuries caused by violations of § 241(6).

Section 241(6) of the NYLL applies to all sites where “construction, excavation or demolition work” is ongoing. It requires any site to be “constructed,…operated and conducted” in a way that “provide[s] reasonable and adequate protection and safety” to anyone “lawfully frequenting” the site. It authorizes the New York Department of Labor to promulgate rules to allow effective enforcement. The Industrial Code, found in Title 12, Chapter I, Subchapter A of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), is the result of this authorization. It includes regulations regarding construction and demolition operations, as well as building codes, and rules for equipment like elevators and boilers.

The New York Appellate Division, Second Department described § 241(6) as a “nondelegable duty of reasonable care upon owners and contractors.” Lopez v. New York City Dept. of Envtl. Protection, 123 A.D.3d 982, 983 (2014). Under the common law theory of negligence, a defendant is liable for damages when they breach of a duty of care owed to the plaintiff, and that breach causes the plaintiff injury. Section 241(6) essentially states that property owners and general contractors owe a duty of care to construction workers to abide by the Industrial Code.
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New York law offers numerous protections for workers who suffer injuries while performing dangerous work. Construction workers routinely find themselves in unequal bargaining positions with contractors and property owners. If they demand better safety equipment, and safer conditions in general, they might find that speaking out puts their jobs at risk. Workers who are injured because of poor safety conditions might encounter difficulty establishing liability and recovering damages. Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” establishes liability for contractors and others who control the work on construction sites. Recent New York court decisions have examined various circumstances that support relief under the Scaffold Law.

Under the Scaffold Law, contractors and property owners are responsible for providing scaffolding and other equipment that gives “proper protection” to construction workers employed on the site. The law makes an exception for residential property owners who “contract for but do not direct or control the work.” In 1993, the New York Court of Appeals held in Ross v. Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co. that “the duty imposed by Labor Law § 240(1) is nondelegable.” The court further held that an owner or contractor is liable for damages caused by a breach of the Scaffold Law “regardless of whether it has actually exercised supervision or control over the work.”

The purpose of the Scaffold Law is, in one sense, to protect construction workers against “gravity-related risks,” as the Supreme Court in Manhattan noted earlier this year in Ryerson v. 580 Park Ave. The court held that the Scaffold Law did not apply because the plaintiff’s injury was the result of tripping and falling, not “falling from a height or being struck by a falling object.” In another Manhattan case, Terranova v. ERY Tenant, the court held that a plaintiff’s injury was covered by the Scaffold law even though it did not directly involve a falling object. The injury occurred after a beam began to swing during hoisting. The plaintiff “slipped while trying to get out of the beam’s path.” The court held that the Scaffold Law applied because “the process of lifting the beam created an elevation-related risk” to the plaintiff and other workers.
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A Manhattan-based masonry contractor was fined $74,500 after a construction employee fell 80 feet from a scaffold in Brooklyn. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) cited Navillus Contracting Tile, Inc. for one repeat and six serious violations of safety standards in connection with a September 28, 2011 incident where a worker fell from the top of a 118 foot scaffold. The worker landed approximately 80 feet below the top of the scaffold on another construction level.

According to OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office, the masonry company failed to ensure the scaffold had guard rails in place, and the scaffold was not fully planked. Additionally, at the time of the incident an access platform was reportedly not secured and workers were not properly tied off to ensure their safety. Employees also allegedly climbed up and down the scaffolding frame in order to reach building work areas. Due to the conditions at the Brooklyn work site, OSHA proposed a fine of $36,000 for six serious violations. A serious violation is issued when an employer knew or should have known there was a high probability a safety hazard would result in a serious physical injury or death.

Navillus Contracting Tile, Inc. also received a repeat violation with a proposed fine of $38,500 for failing to ensure the scaffolding had guard rails in place. A repeat violation is issued by OSHA where an employer was cited for a substantially similar violation of a rule, regulation, standard, or order within the previous five years. The masonry company was cited for a guard rail hazard at another work site in September 2008.

Luckily, the worker who fell was not killed. According to OSHA’s Area Director for Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, effective scaffolding maintenance rather than luck must be relied upon to protect construction site employees. Due to the nature of building sites, construction workers are faced with hazardous working conditions every day. Construction accidents tragically hurt or kill thousands of people each year. Although workplace injuries are normally subject to state workers’ compensation laws, a third party may be legally responsible for failing to implement proper and adequate safety measures. For example, construction contractors have a duty to inform workers about potential workplace dangers and take proper safety precautions. If you or a family member was hurt in a scaffolding accident or injured by another construction site hazard, contact a knowledgeable construction accident lawyer to learn more about your rights and options for financial recovery.

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