The collapse of a scaffold often carries dire consequences that are memorialized in the nightly news. As unfortunate as these tragedies may be, the scaffold is often the site of numerous avoidable accidents that take a silent toll on those who work in and around constructions sites, a toll seldom seen in the media.
Most scaffold accidents are avoidable with the exercise of proper care and a commitment to safety by the general contractor and its sub contractors. The use and maintenance of toe boards to prevent objects from falling from the floors of scaffolds would seem to be a given. Nonetheless, each year many construction workers are needlessly injured or killed by objects which fall from above.
The failure to properly maintain the structural integrity of a scaffold likewise contributes to construction site accidents, all of which can be prevented with a minimal effort by those responsible for construction site safety. It is not enough to merely provide a guardrail; that rail must be properly installed, inspected and maintained. The effect of a guardrail which fails when one leans or falls against it, is no different from that which occurs when no rail is placed into service in the first place.
Construction site safety is the non-delegable duty of a general contractor. While they can employ safety engineers and consultants to assist in their efforts, the buck stops with the GC. That proposition, however, does not allow an employer, a sub or a consultant a free ride, as each of these parties may also be legally responsible for a scaffold accident.
When one is injured in such an accident, the consequences are often severe. The last thing that an injured worker is able to do when injured in a scaffold accident is to investigate the reason for his or her injury. It is essential that a construction worker injured as a result of a scaffold accident seek assistance as soon as possible to document the names of the sub contractors, safety consultants and scaffold manufacturer and/or assembler, to prevent spoliation of evidence associated with a scaffold injury.
The State of New York has recognized the often catastrophic implications of a scaffold accident by its enactment of legislation which makes owners of most buildings and contractors strictly liable for injuries and/or death caused by an accident involving scaffolds or ladders. Labor Law section 240(1) was enacted to protect injured workers in circumstances in which a scaffold, its railings, a ladder or a hoist, did not adequately protect persons from harm.
While New York’s legislative treatment of such risks make it a leader in the recognition of the risks associated with the use of scaffolds, ladders and other devices which place persons and objects at great height, the lack of such statutory enactments in other states does not absolve property owners and contractors from their common law responsibility for accidents associated with scaffolding, ladders or hoists. Whenever one is injured as a result of such an accident consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to address all of the issues surrounding the accident.
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