Feroleto Law, Buffalo NY

A Call to Safeguard Workers

The Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health, “WNYCOSH”, an independent not-for-profit safety group issued a report January 25, 2016, providing that the Scaffold Law, Labor Law Section 240 is essential to protect construction workers. As a son of a construction worker, I feel strongly that work sites should be safe. As a personal injury attorney, who has represented many construction workers, I have seen the devastation unsafe work sites can cause.

Time and time again, I have seen that aggressive owners and general contractors will cut corners if it increases their profits. Cutting corners on job site safety puts workers at risk.scaffold-injury

Construction sites are dangerous; and construction site accidents, particularly those involving falls from heights, often result in very serious injuries or the death of a worker. Contractors and business groups seek to weaken safety laws, citing the expense.

The safety group, WNYCOSH, looked at 2014 construction OSHA inspections in Erie County, Niagara County, Chautauqua County, Genesee County, Wyoming County, Orleans County, Cattaraugus County and Allegany County. OSHA inspectors found violations in 83% of construction inspections, 82% of which were “serious” violations.

The problem is that OSHA does not have enough inspectors to make sure that every job site is safe. Also, the average penalty per construction employer inspection, where there is violation is only $1,963. This amount is insignificant, and too little to “effectively deter construction employers from taking safety shortcuts that endanger the workers”, according to WYNCOSH. Labor Law Section 240, the Scaffold Law, provides absolute liability when the lack of a safety device is a cause of a worker’s injury.

As falls from heights can cause serious injury or death, the importance of proper safety devices is heightened. Because of this, if the failure to provide proper scaffolding, ladders, or other necessary safety equipment, is a cause of an elevation related injury, the owner or general contractor is liable for the injury to the worker.

If the owner or general contractor provides proper safety equipment, and the construction worker is injured, there is no liability under Labor Law Section 240. Labor Law Section 240 applies in construction, demolition, and excavation operations. I grew up around construction workers; have known many and represented many. They are hard workers who want to do a good job. They should have proper safety protection.