New York law requires an owner, contractor or agency to provide proper safety devices to protect workers from the dangers associated with the risks of working at heights. This is true even if the worker is not an employee of the owner, contractor, or agency.
Labor Law 240, also known as the “Scaffold Law,” protects workers from accidents involving falling from a height, such as a scaffold, or being struck by an object that falls from a height. Because of the severity of injuries that could result from elevated falls, and the fact that construction workers rely on owners, contractors, and agents to provide a safe working environment, these workers are afforded special legal protection.
To be protected by the Scaffold Law, the worker must have been working on a building or structure, and not, for instance, a tree. The worker must be performing work that is not just routine maintenance. To recover under the Scaffold Law, the worker must show that the contractor, owner, or agent, failed to furnish proper safety equipment or violated an established safety standard. This safety violation must have contributed to the injury.
Liability under the Scaffold Law is absolute, meaning that the contractor or owners cannot claim that the worker was at fault for the injury. The law does not, however, extend to a worker who knowingly disregards instructions by deliberately failing to use a safety device. The purpose of the law is to make sure that property owners, contractors, or agents use the highest possible safety standards.

Exceptions to the Law

The law does not hold the owners of one or two-family homes liable for falls if the owner does not direct or control the work being done. The law also only applies to workers at a construction site and not to pedestrians or passersby who may be injured.

What about Workers’ Compensation?

When a worker has been injured in a scaffolding accident, he or she can bring a workers’ compensation claim against his or her employer and be compensated for medical bills and some lost wages. Workers’ compensation, however, does not cover all damages a person may suffer as the result of a serious injury. For instance, the worker cannot recover for pain and suffering in a workers’ compensation case. The worker would have to file a separate lawsuit. The worker cannot sue his or her employer, however, because of the workers’ compensation claim. The worker can sue a third party, for instance, the property owner or the general contractor, under the Scaffold Law.
Navigating the nuances of the New York Scaffold Law can be difficult. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience representing injured New York construction workers in cases involving scaffolding accidents. If you’ve been injured in an accident at work, contact us online or call us at 1-888-MED-LAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.