Falls from heights are routinely cited as the leading cause of construction accident fatalities, and most if not all of these falls are preventable. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), out of a total of 1,008 construction accident deaths in 2020, more than 350 resulted from falls to a lower level. To put that number in terms of percentages, nearly 35% of construction accident deaths result from falls from heights. Yet as a recent article in Business Insurance points out, even though we know how deadly falls from heights can be on construction sites, “the hazard remains the most-cited workplace safety violation year after year despite being relatively easy to prevent.” Indeed, in 2021 alone, OSHA issued nearly 5,300 citations for fall protection safety violations on construction sites.
In response to the continuance of fall-related deaths, OSHA has announced that it will begin conducting “surprise safety inspections for fall hazards” at a range of construction sites across the country, focusing on construction companies with a history of safety violations related to fall prevention. What else should you know about preventable falls on New York construction sites?
Falls are Avoidable With Basic Safety Precautions
The key thing to know about construction site falls is that they are almost always avoidable with basic safety precautions. Construction workers should know that their employers have a duty to prevent falls. What should employers be doing? Some of the ways that employers can — and must — prevent falls on New York construction sites include the following:
● Have a fall prevention plan in place for every construction site;
● Train employees in the fall prevention plan and fall prevention safety methods;
● Understand OSHA’s fall prevention requirements and ensure that the construction site is in compliance;
● Use proper scaffolding and guard rails;
● Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to prevent falls, like harnesses and lanyards;
● Ensure that all PPE meets OSHA safety standards;
● Recognize that extreme temperatures, and especially extreme heat, can affect a worker’s balance and may increase the risk of a fall from heights (and, accordingly, ensure that workers take breaks as necessary and consume fluids to avoid the effects of heat-related illness); and
● Regularly evaluate fall prevention methods and update or improve fall prevention methods where needed.
You Can Seek Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Fall-Related Injury
Any fall-related injury that occurs while you are working on a construction site will typically allow you to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The New York workers’ compensation system pays for medical bills related to the fall injury, and a portion of lost wages while you are unable to work due to the fall-related injury.
You Could be Able to Sue Your Employer Under New York Labor Law
New York is a rare state in that it allows injured construction workers to sue employers for negligence. When it comes to fall-related injuries, New York Labor Law has a specific section under which injured construction workers can sue for negligence related to scaffolding and falls. Section 240 of New York Labor Law is often known as the “Scaffold Law.”
Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer
Were you injured in a fall while working on a construction site? You could be able to seek compensation in multiple ways. One of our New York construction accident attorneys can speak with you today about your options. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC for more information.