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Construction Accidents

This article is intended to address those readers who are engaged in all areas of construction including new construction, refurbishments, brick-laying, painting, dry walling, pointing and various labor at construction sites. This article should serve as a manual for those readers engaged in these or other construction related activities.

As discussed in the prior article, Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law requires building owners and general contractors of buildings to provide workers with proper scaffolds, hoists, harnesses and other appropriate work site safety equipment for use when working at elevated heights. The most vital role that the law plays is to place the ultimate requirements and implementations of these laws on owners and contractors. As such, owners and contractors cannot avoid liability or shift the burden of responsibility to other workers or subcontractors when elevation related accidents occur.

A recent review of more than 2,500 OSHA (Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration) construction site inspection records in New York from 2003 found that nearly one-third of all OSHA construction violations in the state were of OSHA's scaffolding or fall protection requirements – more than for any other standard.

The organizations involved in the analysis also said the results of this study as well as a separate review reveal troubling data about the plight of immigrant workers in the construction industry. Immigrant workers frequently are not named on workers' compensation policies and lack health insurance, leaving the scaffold law as their only practical source of recompense if they are injured at the worksite because required safety equipment was not provided.

A separate review of accident inspections found that since 2001, immigrants were the victims in half the accidents in the state and two-thirds of accidents in New York City in which a worker was killed or at least three workers were hospitalized.

Also found were the following:

  • Safety violations were widespread and serious. Nearly two-thirds of the inspections found at least one violation of an OSHA safety standard. In construction trades such as roofing and masonry, violation rates exceeded 80 percent and multiple violations at a single site were common. OSHA classified virtually all of the violations as "serious" and frequently assigned them the agency's highest "gravity" score.
  • Inspections in New York City were substantially more likely to find violations than were inspections elsewhere in the state. More than 80 percent of inspections in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx found violations compared to 62 percent statewide and 50 percent upstate, and each inspection that found violations in these boroughs found substantially more violations than did inspections elsewhere. Some of the highest violation rates were among New York City multi-family residential building general contractors – an 87 percent rate in Brooklyn, for instance.
  • The higher rates in New York City reflect the widespread employment of undocumented workers and day laborers in the city's construction industry, especially at smaller, non-union construction sites. Since these workers often speak little or no English and fear employer reprisals if they complain to the authorities about safety lapses, they often are left to work without the appropriate safety equipment and in violation of correct safety procedures.

When a construction site accident occurs, there are statutes, laws and protections in place to help injured workers recover money damages. In addition to workers compensation benefits, lawsuits can be commenced against owners and contractors for violations of New York State Labor Laws. As has been mentioned in my prior articles, your immigration status has no effect on your right to commence a lawsuit. Whether you are a citizen, holder of a green card or an undocumented alien, you are entitled to the statutory protections afforded by section 240 of the Labor Laws.

Our law firm has represented many construction workers in accident cases. Our investigation team can find the culpable parties and can insure that the insurance companies pay your medical bills and lost wages. We also make sure that the responsible entities pay for your past, present and future pain and suffering as well as your future lost wages.

Remember, when accidents happen, protect your rights. Call The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried. We fight to protect your legal rights.

Some of the above statistics have been reproduced from a New York State Trial Lawyers report titled: Lives in the Balance-Immigrants and Workers at Elevated Heights at Greatest Risk in Construction.

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The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, P.C. - Bronx Personal Injury Attorney
Located at 5600A Broadway, Bronx, NY 10463.
Phone: (212) 964-5777.
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