Scaffolds are obviously needed on construction sites to elevate construction workers and their materials to higher levels. Construction workers do a lot of work from way up on those scaffolds. Because scaffolds are so dangerous, both New York State, through is Industrial Code, and our Federal Government, through OSHA, have strict requirements, rules and regulations for proper scaffold use and scaffold construction.
There are many kinds of scaffolds, including wood pole scaffolds, tube and coupler scaffolds, fabricated frame scaffolds, mobile scaffolds, outrigger scaffolds, suspension scaffolds, swinging scaffolds, brick lawyer’s square scaffolds, horse scaffolds, and needle beam scaffolds, but they all have a few important things in common: They should all be properly erected, constructed, and maintained, and should be kept free of trash, tools, debris, slippery substances and ice. Scaffolding accidents happen when the scaffolding is not properly assembled; the scaffolding is not properly maintained or supported, the scaffolding is not tested, the workers who assemble the scaffolding are not properly trained or supervised, the scaffolding is not secured or stabilized properly, the scaffolding lacks proper cross-bars, handrails or guards, or when other errors occur. There is no margin for error from way up there!
New York and federal rules highly regulate the use of scaffolds. For example, scaffolds and their components must not be loaded beyond their rated maximum capacities. Movable scaffolds should never be moved when employees are on them. Scaffolds should be erected a safe distance from energized power lines. Work should be prohibited on scaffolds until snow, ice and other materials that could cause slipping and falls are removed. Suspension ropes must be protected from contact with sources of heat (welding, cutting, etc.), from acids and from other corrosive substances. Scaffold should never be used during storms and high winds.
People exposed to scaffolding hazards include all construction workers, but in particular personnel working on scaffolds, as well as other employees and the general public passing near or under the scaffolding. Scaffold erectors and dismantlers are at particular risk, since they work on scaffolds before ladders, platforms, planks and guardrails are completely installed.
The main risk of scaffolding is that workers will fall and objects will fall on them. Usually falling men and falling objects have the same root causes: Incorrect operating procedures, improperly erected equipment, failed and poorly maintained scaffolding components. Scaffolds usually fail at attachment points. Environmental conditions can play a part in causing a scaffold to fail, or a worker or object to fall (high winds, temperature extremes, toxic gases), but it is almost always someone’s fault for having failed to protect against these foreseeable conditions. Additionally, overloading of scaffolds is often a cause of scaffold failure.
When the regulations and rules are violated, trouble happens, including the scaffolds collapsing, planks falling, pipes or cross-sections failing, supports falling, workers slipping and falling off scaffolding, scaffolding shaking, moving toppling over, or trembling, unstable scaffolding, and workers simply falling off the sides of the scaffolding.
Injuries common to scaffolding accidents are: broken bones, especially broken legs, ankles, feet, arms, hands, and spines. Some scaffold injuries are so serious they require amputation, or result in quadriplegia, paraplegia or other paralysis, brain injuries, and a lifetime of pain and suffering and lost wages.
New York State has a unique law, known as Labor Law section 240, also known as “the scaffolding law”, that protect construction workers from injuries suffered in scaffold falls. This law is so generous to the fallen construction worker that it allows him to sue for all his pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses even if he was partly or even mostly at fault for his own fall. As long as someone else, for example a co-worker, or the boss, was somewhat at fault too, then the fallen construction worker generally gets full compensation from the general contractor, the owner of the worksite, or others.
The Syracuse scaffold accident lawyers of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in construction accidents and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a construction accident, contact us for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.