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The Labor Law of the State of New York

The Labor Law of the State of New York attempts to ensure worker safety by putting the responsibility for safety on owners and contractors who control the work site. The law states:

“All contractors and owners and their agents… 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.”

Simply put, owners and contractors who are in the best position to oversee safety on their sites must provide appropriate safety devices to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring due to the effects of gravity, whether that involves a worker falling from a height or an object falling on a worker while being hoisted, or which should have been secured so it would not fall. The Court of Appeals of the State of New York, our highest Court, articulated this in Runner v. New York Stock Exchange, a decision issued in December, 2009.

The statute requires that owners and contractors make sure such devices are available and in use and the onus is on owners and contractors to do so. While owners and contractors may require subcontractors to use appropriate and safe devices under the statute, they cannot escape liability for the failure of their subcontractors to do so.

The statute also requires workers to use available and appropriate safety devices which are provided to them at the work site. Failure to use an appropriate safety device or failure to follow instructions to use or not use a specific device which results in injury to a worker will result in the worker not being able to make a claim in court if the worker is the only cause of his or her accident.

The law’s intent is clear and appropriate – workplace safety intended to save workers lives. If followed by owners and contractors, accidents should never happen and laborers working on such sites should be able to return home safely to their families at the end of the workday. However, when owners and contractors fail to make sure the worksite complies with the statute and accidents occur, often with devastating injuries, the statute ensures the worker has a right of recovery for a violation of the statute, so that he or she can take care of their families in the event of injuries which often can be debilitating and prevent the injured worker from earning a living indefinitely.

Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, P.C. is well-versed in the labor law and we have represented countless victims of construction site accidents with success. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a fall from a ladder, scaffold or other device, or if you’ve been injured in any other way on a construction project big or small, call us at 1-800-246-8946. We can help.