FAQs About New York's Scaffold Law
Do Falls Really Happen That Often on Construction Sites?
Yes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that every year, falls cause the most fatalities of all construction site accidents. Construction workers often have to work at heights, both inside and outside of buildings. When equipment such as ladders, harnesses, and scaffolds are not in proper working condition, it is often fatal for the construction worker.
What is Strict Liability in the Scaffold Law?
Contractors and owners of construction sites are held strictly liable under New York's scaffold law. This means that if a worker is injured while working at a height, contractors and site owners are considered responsible in most cases. This is due to the fact that these individuals have more control over the worksite than workers. Contractors and construction site owners provide the equipment and instructions on what workers are supposed to be doing. Therefore, a worker's actions cannot be considered completely independent from the contractor's and owner's, as they would be in a car accident, for example. As such, contractors and owners are strictly liable under the law.
Are there Exceptions to Strict Liability in the Scaffold Law?
Yes. Simply because there was an accident does not mean contractors or construction site owners are automatically liable. If the accident was entirely caused by a worker's negligence, such as if the worker was intoxicated, he or she will not have a valid claim. Additionally, if contractors and owners provided the necessary safety equipment and a worker refused to use it, the worker will not have a claim.
Are Undocumented Workers Protected by the Scaffold Law?
Yes. In 2006, New York's Court of Appeals ruled that undocumented workers hurt on job sites due to a violation of the scaffold law could recover damages such as lost wages and medical expenses. The only exception to this is if the worker provided the employer with false documentation at the time he or she was employed.
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