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Construction-Related Accidents: More Common Than You Think

    According to the New York City Buildings Department, the most common construction site accident is falling, representing 42% of all accidents reported to the Buildings Department in 2010. In fact, in the last four and a half years, 16 New York City construction workers died while on-the-job due to a lack of basic work “falling” protection. This past spring, the Department
    announced that after a two-month long inspection sweep of low-rise construction sites in New York City, city inspectors issued full and partial Stop Work Orders at 12% of the locations due to unsafe conditions. In all, they issued nearly 900 safety violations and nearly $1 million in penalties. Throughout the U.S., in 2009 alone, construction site accidents accounted for approximately 800 fatalities. This includes the use of heavy equipment, exposure to asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, scaffold accidents, electrocution, sandblasting, and other dangerous tasks. So, we may
    conclude that construction site accidents are all too common, and that accidents seem to occur more in
    the construction industry than in any other industry.

    Although as in other industries, construction site accidents generally are covered through Workers’ Compensation, oftentimes, these accidents are quite severe and Workers’ Compensation benefits simply are not enough to pay for the significant medical bills and loss of pay. Because construction projects typically involve other contractors or subcontractors, frequently one or more of these third parties is responsible. That means should you experience a construction site accident, you may be entitled to compensation from one or more of these third parties.

    New York Labor Law §240 states:

    1. All contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.

    No liability pursuant to this subdivision for the failure to provide protection to a person so employed shall be imposed on professional engineers as provided for in article one hundred forty-five of the education law, architects as provided for in article one hundred forty-seven of such law or landscape architects as provided for in article one hundred forty-eight of such law who do not direct or control the work for activities other than planning and design. This exception shall not diminish or extinguish any liability of professional engineers or architects or landscape architects arising under the common law or any other provision of law.

    2. Scaffolding or staging more than twenty feet from the ground or floor, swung or suspended from an overhead support or erected with stationary supports, except scaffolding wholly within the interior of a building and covering the entire floor space of any room therein, shall have a safety rail of suitable material properly attached, bolted, braced or otherwise
    secured, rising at least thirty-four inches above the floor or main portions of such scaffolding or staging and extending along the entire length of the outside and the ends thereof, with only such openings as may be necessary for the delivery of materials. Such scaffolding or staging shall be so fastened as to prevent it from swaying from the building or structure.

    3. All scaffolding shall be so constructed as to bear four times the maximum weight required to be dependent therefrom or placed thereon when in use.

    In Other Words . . .

    If specific safety measures are absent from the construction work site, and a worker is injured, he may recover damages against the party (company) responsible for the project, whether in part or in whole.

    This law was created to protect construction workers in these situations who, as we’ve already discussed, work under some of the most dangerous conditions in the country. The law also makes clear that when it comes to the safety of construction workers whose work involves elevation related risks, the property owner and general contractor have the lion’s share of the responsibility.

    If you are injured as a result of a construction site accident, here
    are some things to consider:

        Make sure the accident is properly reported at the time and place it occurs;
        Seek immediate medical care;
        Gather the names of witnesses to your accident and the dangerous or unsafe working condition; Seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. Let your attorney do the talking for you.

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