According to OSHA, 60 workers die every year after falling off a scaffold. But no matter how troubling, statistics fail to convey the immense pain and suffering caused by construction accidents. We prefer to think of people, not numbers. People like Vidal Sanchez-Roman, whose life ended tragically after he fell six floors from a roof in Brooklyn.
Numbers don’t seem to promote increased safety on worksites, either. At the time of Sanchez-Roman’s accident, it was unclear that the safety precautions New York requires by law on all scaffolding were in place. Traumatic accidents like that happen all the time, but few workers receive the support they need, and few understand how strong their legal protections are in New York City
New York Scaffolding Law
Construction company owners and managers are responsible for making sure that all safety standards are enforced and that their employees are safe. New York has cracked down on owners and managers who fail to maintain the proper safety standards by enforcing the “Scaffolding Law”.
The scaffolding laws in New York are unique. Under Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, the construction company owners and contractors are held legally responsible for any accidents that involve:
- ropes, and
This law is different because, in most personal injury cases, the person who was injured usually has to prove that the party they are suing was negligent in some way, and that negligence directly resulted in their injury.
Under New York’s Scaffolding Law, the opposite happens. The construction company or contractor has to prove that they were not negligent and took all necessary steps to protect the worker from harm.
OSHA’s Scaffolding Safety Requirements
OSHA determines all of the safety standards regulating scaffolding. These standards include the design, construction, and use of the scaffolds.
These safety standards cover:
- the appropriate spacing between platforms
- the acceptable distance from the structure being worked on
- the hardware connecting each piece of the scaffolding
- the balancing components including any counterweights
- the strength requirements – scaffolding must be strong enough to hold four times the maximum weight that it will actually bear
- guardrails – a guardrail must run the entire length of the scaffolding and around each end. A minimum height of 34 inches above the scaffold floor must be maintained and the rail needs to be properly secured. The only openings allowable are those that are necessary to deliver materials. Once the materials have been delivered the opening must be closed.
Common Causes Of Scaffolding Accidents
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 7% of all construction worker falls that resulted in a fatality were off of scaffolding. The majority of these falls were caused by falling objects, planks or supports giving way, or employees slipping and not having a guardrail to support them.
Many of the workers who do survive a fall from scaffolding end up with serious or life-threatening injuries. These injuries can require extensive medical care and may even be career ending.
Injuries Sustained From A Fall
Falls can lead to high-impact crashes into the ground or structure below. The greater the height a body falls from, the more severe the injuries.
The human body has 206 bones. Each of these bones can be fractured or broken when a person hits the ground after a fall. If the bone breaks in a certain way, it can damage the internal organs that it protects by piercing them. Many breaks require surgical correction and months of stabilization in a cast.
Falling objects, impalement on metal, or broken glass can all sever limbs and digits outright or cause enough damage that total amputation is necessary.
Vertebrae and Spinal Cord Injuries
Any blow to the back can fracture the vertebrae or even sever the spinal cord. Many construction workers have become hemiplegic, paraplegic, or quardiplegic after a fall. These victims will require continuous medical care for the rest of their lives and in some cases constant at home care.
Brain injuries occur when the soft tissue of the brain is slammed into the skull by an impact. Swelling and bleeding in the brain can lead to cognitive defects, loss of speech, coma, or death.
Why Should I File A Scaffolding Fall Lawsuit?
While the majority of companies do have workers’ compensation insurance, the Department of Labor reported that from January 2015 to October 2015, only 38% of all workers’ comp claims were approved.
Even if the employee was lucky enough to be approved for coverage under workers’ comp, the insurance only covers a fraction of lost wages.
For victims or loved ones of a victim who has been injured or died during a scaffolding fall, the best option may be to consult with a construction accident attorney. By filing a lawsuit, you may be able to regain monetary compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and more.
Contact A Construction Accident Lawyer Today
The lawyers at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus, and Moverman P.C. are here to help. We will guide you through the legal process while fighting for the maximum compensation available for you. Our lawyers have years of construction accident trial experience and in many cases have obtained large settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for your free consultation.