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What Protection Does New York Labor Law Provide for Falls From Heights?


If you work on a construction site in New York, it is essential to know that New York has more protections for construction workers than many other states when it comes to safety protocols and remedies for injuries. Section 240 of New York Labor Law, often known as the “Scaffold Law,” specifically gives injured construction workers or their families a remedy if an employer does not provide adequate fall protection. This law covers injuries caused by falls from heights, as well as injuries caused by objects that strike a worker after falling from a higher elevation. We want to tell you more about falls from heights, and how Section 240 allows injured construction workers to seek compensation.

What is a Fall From Heights?

As we mentioned above, Section 240 of New York Labor Law provides a remedy for construction workers who are injured due to inadequate protection to prevent a fall from heights, But what are falls from heights? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In 2018 alone, 320 fatal falls from heights occurred. OSHA makes clear that falls from heights are any type of fall-related injury in which a construction worker suffers a “fall to a lower level.” To put the statistics in perspective, in 2018 there were a total of 1,008 construction fatalities altogether. Falls from heights accounted for nearly 32% of all fatalities on construction sites.

Construction site owners, general contractors, and other construction employers have a duty to provide workers with fall protection. Indeed, as OSHA explains, “when working from heights, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely,” which requires consideration of “the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading ledges,” or scaffolding. OSHA clarifies that any construction worker who is working six feet or more above ground level is at serious risk of an injury due to a fall from heights. Employers are required by OSHA regulations to have proper ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear to prevent these types of falls.

Learning More About Section 240

Under Section 240 of New York Labor Law, “all contractors and owners and their agents . . . in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, or pointing of a building or structure shall furniture or erect . . . for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pullets, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed, and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.” Further, the law clarifies that any scaffolding or staging that is more than 20 feet off the ground must have a secured safety rail, along with other necessary safety precautions.

While construction accident injuries in most states—including falls from heights—that result from the employer’s negligence only give an employee a chance for compensation through the workers’ compensation system, New York Labor Law allows an injured construction worker to file a claim against the employer for injuries resulting from a fall from heights due to negligent safety measures.

Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

If you have questions about filing a claim under Section 240 of New York Labor Law, it is essential to seek advice from an experienced construction accident lawyer in New York. One of the personal injury attorneys at our firm can evaluate your case and discuss your options for filing a claim. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC today for more information.

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