Construction workers are often seriously injured or even killed on the job. Site visitors, bystanders, and passers-by can also be injured due to dangerous conditions on a work site.
There are many complex state and federal regulations governing construction site safety. In addition, the laws regarding injuries to construction worker and non-workers injured on construction sites differ in important ways from the laws governing people injured on non-construction sites. This can make it difficult for those who were injured on a construction site to understand how they can get compensation for their injuries.
And, "construction" means more than just the construction of commercial buildings or homes. It can mean the installation of infrastructure for roads or bridges, the installation of telephone poles or billboards, painting buildings, installing fences, installing windows into buildings, clearing trees for traditional construction work, and many more factual scenarios.
And "construction" jobs come in many sizes - they can be as large as working on a skyscraper, or as small as building a home or installing sign on a building.
Special Dangers for Construction Workers
Every construction worker knows that construction is a dangerous occupation, even when everyone carefully follows every safety rule and regulation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were over 197,000 injuries in the construction industry in 2016, including here in New York.
If an employer, property owner or another party involved in construction doesn't follow those safety regulations, the consequences for workers can be devastating. Construction accidents can result in broken bones, spinal injuries, brain injuries, electrocution, burns, toxic chemical exposure, amputations and even death.
In addition, the highly physical nature of construction work makes it likely that injured workers may miss work if they are injured. This means construction workers often face a short-term or long-term loss of their livelihoods, in addition to mounting medical expenses. They may even be left permanently unable to work if they are severely injured or disabled in a construction accident.
In the most extreme circumstances, construction accidents can be deadly. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), almost 1,000 construction workers were killed on the job in 2016. OSHA reports that the "Fatal Four" top causes of construction deaths are:
- Falls (by far the most common cause of construction worker deaths)
- Being struck by an object
- Getting caught between equipment, objects, collapsing structures, equipment or other materials
Special Protection for New York Construction Workers
New York law provides exceptional protection to construction workers and non-workers injured on a construction site. Article 7 of the Labor Law contains special provisions to protect workers, and special laws to compensate them when they are injured. The most commonly applicable laws are Labor Law §§ 200, 240(1), and 241(6).
New York Labor Law 240, also called the "Scaffold Law," imposes additional requirements on contractors, owners, and agents to provide appropriate safety equipment to those involved in the "erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure." This equipment includes scaffolding, hoists, ladders, slings, blocks, pulleys, and other safety gear. In other words, almost every type of construction work, and every type of construction site, is covered.
If you fall from a height because of collapsing equipment (like a ladder that falls), missing equipment (like a brace that should be on a scaffold but isn't), defective equipment (like a work platform that breaks), or using inappropriate equipment (like standing on a five gallon pail because there's no ladder you can use), you are likely entitled to compensation.
If an object falls on you because of the effects of gravity (such as a paint can falling off a scaffold and hitting you on the head), you're likely entitled to compensation.
This can be true even if it was your job to supply the equipment, and your job to secure all objects, because Labor Law § 240(1) says the site owner and general contractor must keep you safe. You can bring a lawsuit against the owner and the general contractor, and their agents, even if you're receiving workers' compensation from your employer.
And, a "structure" doesn't just mean a building. Because the law gives special protection to construction workers, a "structure" can be almost anything, like a billboard, or a sewer pipe, or a rain gutter.
New York Labor Law 241, which covers building construction and demolition, requires that these work sites are constructed, equipped, and operated so as to "provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein." It also imposes specific safety requirements regarding things like flooring and elevator shafts.
The New York State Commissioner of Labor has created mandatory regulations covering construction equipment and supplies, methods of work, and worker safety. These regulations are for the safety of those exposed to the hazards of falling, and having objects fall on them, being injured by equipment and vehicles, being injured by fire, explosion and electricity, and many other ways of being hurt. If a contractor or worksite owner violates these regulations, and that violation caused injury to a worker or non-worker lawfully on the construction site, that person may be entitled to compensation, even if that person is collecting workers' compensation benefits.
New York Labor Law § 200 requires that all construction site owners and general contractors, and their agents, use reasonable care to make the work area, as well as the areas on the property that led to and from that area, reasonably safe. This requires owners and contractors to correct any unsafe condition they created, and any unsafe condition that they or their employees knew about. Owners and contractors must conduct reasonable inspections to detect any unsafe conditions and to correct any unsafe conditions that could have been discovered through such inspections. And, owners and contractors must correct any unsafe condition that existed for so long that, in the use of reasonable care, the owner or contractor's employees should have known of its existence.
Owners and contractors also must make the means and manner of work reasonably safe. This means they must also correct any unsafe methods, practices, materials or equipment used in the work if they knew or should have known of the unsafe practices or equipment.
If you are injured on an unsafe construction site, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the owner and the general contractor, even if you're receiving workers' compensation from your employer.
Non-Worker Construction Accident Injuries
Workers aren't the only ones who may be injured on or near a construction site. Site visitors, bystanders, pedestrians passing by, and even children can suffer construction site injury. A knowledgeable construction injury attorney can help you understand how you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries as a non-worker injured on a construction site.
New York Construction Accident Injury Law Firm
If you were injured on a construction site, you need experienced New York lawyers on your side. It is often difficult to understand what caused an accident and who can be held responsible under New York law. The laws governing construction site injuries are complicated, as are the federal and state worksite safety regulations.
At Frost & Kavanaugh, we have the experience to handle construction site injury cases, whether it involves a worker injury or an injury to a site visitor or bystander. We have handled several multi-million dollar construction site injury cases. We will review all the facts of your case and gather evidence to ensure you get the compensation you are due for your injuries. Contact us as soon as possible.