flexiblefullpage
billboard
interstitial1
catfish1
Currently Reading

New York’s Labor Law Section 240 and how it affects general contractors

Codes and Standards

New York’s Labor Law Section 240 and how it affects general contractors

The ‘Scaffold Law’ was first enacted by the New York State Legislature in 1885 and is one of the single most-used laws in construction accident cases.


By Andrew Koenig, Esq. | November 23, 2021
Courthouse in New York
Courthouse in New York, NY. Photo: iStock/J2R

New York State’s Labor Law Section 240, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” is often seen as the bane of the construction industry in the state. This law puts what is known as strict liability on contractors and owners for accidents involving elevation that occur at construction sites. This “strict” liability means that, if no adequate safety devices were made available for the worker, and the injury is a result of covered activity, the worker’s own conduct is not a defense against any lawsuit.

As recent rulings at the Appellate Division Courts in New York show, one of the biggest problems for owners and contractors is that, while liability under the law is strict, knowing when it will apply is often less so.

In the simplest terms, the scaffold law imposes liability on owners and contractors for injuries sustained by workers due to elevation related hazards, if they had failed to make adequate safety devices available. The statute lists both devices that should be provided, and tasks that are covered. Where it becomes difficult is in determining such things as whether the injured worker was performing a task covered by the statute, whether the injury was caused by a risk covered by the statute, whether the safety device provided was adequate, and whether the worker’s actions were the sole cause of the injury.

Owners and contractors need to be aware that the courts in New York will often seem to apply the law in an expansive manner, to determine that the injured worker’s activities or that the happening of the accident were such that are covered by the statute.

Recent Court Rulings on Section 240

In a recent case decided by the Second Appellate Department, an injured worked was found to be entitled to the protections of Labor Law 240 when he fell from an elevated platform while waiting for an elevator to take him to start work at a construction site due to a guardrail giving way. The court ruled that the statute required proper safety devices for workers to gain access to work site where there are elevation-related risks. In addition, it was determined that, as getting to and from the work area are necessary activities to perform the work in question, the fact that the accident happened while waiting for the elevator did not remove the protections of Section 240.

The First Department recently decided a case involving a worker who was injured when his leg went part-way into a hole that had been inadequately covered by plywood, while working below grade level. The Court held that he was still covered by the protections of Section 240(1), despite the location of the accident and his leg not falling all the way through.

It’s also important to remember that, in addition to providing the required safety equipment, the equipment provided must be adequate to the task. For example, the First Department recently granted summary judgment for a plaintiff who was injured when the ladder he was using slid on a concrete floor due to the ladder not having rubber feet. So, even though a safety device was provided to the worker, as it was not adequate to prevent his injury, liability under the law was found.

While the law requires proper safety devices to protect against elevation-related hazards, if the device itself causes the injury, it will be found to be an injury contemplated by the law. In a recent First Department case, the Court found in favor of a worker who claimed to have been injured when the jack he had been provided with in order to lift a steel beam fell on him. The Court found that it didn’t matter whether he was struck by the jack or by a beam falling from the jack, either way the jack failed to do what it was supposed to do.

Injured workers are also not required to show exactly how the accident happened, so long as the accident was one which was contemplated by the protections required under the statute. The First Department ruled in May that a worker who was struck by falling rebar was not required to show whether the rebar was dropped by a coworker or fell in some other manner. All that was important was that the rebar was material that should have been secured to prevent just such an occurrence.

Just providing safety equipment isn’t enough. You also need to make sure that the equipment you’ve provided is correct for the job at hand. The First Department affirmed summary judgment for a worker who was injured when a portion of the sidewalk bridge on which he was working collapsed. The worker had been provided with a safety harness, but he had testified that he couldn’t wear it while working on the bridge because the lifeline, which he had used while working on a scaffold at the site, couldn’t be used on the bridge. Therefore, it is incumbent to provide adequate safety devices to protect workers during any elevation-related tasks they might be performing at the job site.

The law requires proper safety devices for cleaning, but routine cleaning is not covered by this. But courts can find that what one side may consider to be routine maintenance, and therefore not subject to the requirements of Labor Law 240, is, in fact, a covered activity. For example, the Fourth Department held that a building maintenance worker who fell from a ladder while removing a bird’s nest was engaged in nonroutine cleaning, and therefore entitled to the protections of the law. This was, in part, because the task was one which was not part of his usual job duties

Conclusion

So, what can contractors and property owners take away from this? Unfortunately, it seems impossible to protect against any and all claims under Labor Law 240. The best course of action is to do what you can to ensure that adequate safety devices are provided whenever you have people working with elevation-related risks at your job sites. Liability under Labor Law 240 can only attach if no proper safety devices were provided.

About the Author
Andrew Koenig, Esq.
Associate Attorney | The Platta Law Firm, PLLC
Andrew has spent many years litigating construction accident cases, for both defense and plaintiff, most of which deal with Labor Law 240.
 

Related Stories

Codes | Jun 17, 2024

To avoid lawsuits, contractors and designers need to do more than comply with codes

Climate change is making design and construction more challenging and increasing the potential for lawsuits against building teams, according to insurance experts. Building to code is not enough to reduce liability because codes have not kept up with the rapid climate changes that are making extreme weather more common.

Concrete Technology | Jun 17, 2024

MIT researchers are working on a way to use concrete as an electric battery

Researchers at MIT have developed a concrete mixture that can store electrical energy. The researchers say the mixture of water, cement, and carbon black could be used for building foundations and street paving.

Codes and Standards | Jun 17, 2024

Federal government releases national definition of a zero emissions building

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a new national definition of a zero emissions building. The definition is intended to provide industry guidance to support new and existing commercial and residential buildings to move towards zero emissions across the entire building sector, DOE says.

Green | Jun 11, 2024

Tool helps construction and renovation projects with CalGreen compliance

One Click LCA recently launched a new software tool to help building teams comply with Part 11, Title 24, of the California Code of Regulations—CALGreen. The regulation is the nation’s first state-mandated green building code to include embodied carbon emission control as a mandatory component, effective from July 1, 2024.

Urban Planning | Jun 10, 2024

N.Y. governor halts Manhattan traffic congestion pricing plan

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says she is indefinitely delaying the implementation of congestion pricing in Manhattan just weeks before the plan was to take effect. The controversial plan would have had drivers pay $15 to enter Manhattan south of 60th street.

Lighting | Jun 10, 2024

LEDs were nearly half of the installed base of lighting products in the U.S. in 2020

Federal government research shows a huge leap in the penetration of LEDs in the lighting market from 2010 to 2020. In 2010 and 2015, LED installations represented 1% and 8% of overall lighting inventory, respectively. 

Contractors | Jun 7, 2024

First-in-nation law requires contractors to pay prevailing wage for subsidized housing projects in Minnesota

Minnesota recently adopted a first-in-nation law that requires contractors to pay prevailing wage for subsidized housing projects in the state. This action makes Minnesota the first state in the nation to mandate prevailing wages on projects funded by federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).

Multifamily Housing | Jun 3, 2024

Grassroots groups becoming a force in housing advocacy

A growing movement of grassroots organizing to support new housing construction is having an impact in city halls across the country. Fed up with high housing costs and the commonly hostile reception to new housing proposals, advocacy groups have sprung up in many communities to attend public meetings to speak in support of developments.

MFPRO+ News | Jun 3, 2024

New York’s office to residential conversion program draws interest from 64 owners

New York City’s Office Conversion Accelerator Program has been contacted by the owners of 64 commercial buildings interested in converting their properties to residential use.

MFPRO+ News | Jun 3, 2024

Seattle mayor wants to scale back energy code to spur more housing construction

Seattle’s mayor recently proposed that the city scale back a scheduled revamping of its building energy code to help boost housing production. The proposal would halt an update to the city’s multifamily and commercial building energy code that is scheduled to take effect later this year. 

boombox1
boombox2
native1

More In Category




Green

Tool helps construction and renovation projects with CalGreen compliance

One Click LCA recently launched a new software tool to help building teams comply with Part 11, Title 24, of the California Code of Regulations—CALGreen. The regulation is the nation’s first state-mandated green building code to include embodied carbon emission control as a mandatory component, effective from July 1, 2024.

halfpage1

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021