September 29, John Feroleto instructed a large crowd of Western New York attorneys on the topic of construction site accidents. John was asked by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association to present at Decisions 2016, which is consistently ranked among the best continuing legal education in New York State.
John began citing the number of owners and contractors who do provide safe work sites for construction workers. However, too many owners, and general contractors cut corners to increase profits, needlessly endangering workers. With scaffolding, cranes, heavy equipment, and massive amounts of construction material being continually moved, construction sites can be very hazardous when safety is compromised.
As in many cases, when a construction worker is hurt, he or she worries about: the effect a disability will have on allowing him or her to take care of his or her family, recovering, and being able to return to the workforce. From a construction accident attorney’s perspective a thorough understanding of the New York State Industrial Code is essential, combined with an appreciation of how the code applies to detailed specific facts of the case. Combining solid understanding of the code with how the code applies to the specific facts, sometimes which are not obvious, can make the difference between winning or losing the case for your client.
An example is a recent case which applied to the cutting and removing of a tree. The general rule is that the cutting of a tree is not covered under the New York Industrial safety laws, such as Labor Law 240 and 241(6) because a tree is “a product of nature.” However, in this case, the injured worker’s attorney showed the tree removal was the first step in the process of making structural repairs to a home which was damaged during a storm. The court agreed with the worker’s attorney, finding the tree removal was the first step in the process of repairing the home and the repairs could not be made without removing the tree. “Since the plaintiff was engaged in activities ancillary to the repair of the building,” the safety rules for repairs to a building applied. The employee should have been provided proper safety equipment.
New York Labor Law Section 240 applies to the erection, demolition, painting, repairing, altering, pointing, or cleaning of a building or structure. The New York State Industrial Code applies to New York State Labor Law Section 241(6) for industrial accidents which occur in construction, demolition and excavation work sites. The Industrial Code provides specific minimum safety requirements for work platforms, walkways, grades, safe use of machinery, etc.
Contractors associations and business associations are attempting to weaken safety laws that apply to construction sites. However, too often there is no enforcement of safety rules, or investigation of construction sites until after a terrible loss to a worker and his or her family. Compliance with minimum safety requirements before an injury makes sense for owners, contractors and our workers.