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ELEVATION-RELATED RISKS IN CONSTRUCTION

New York’s Labor Law provides important protection for construction workers by giving owners and general contractors every reason to make sure the work site is safe. Most know that the so-called “Scaffold Law” gives them the right to sue the owner and/or general contractor of a construction, excavation or demolition job for personal injury caused by falling from a ladder of a scaffold, or if something falls on them from above. The reason the law holds owners and general contractors responsible is to make sure they hire safe and responsible subcontractors, and that they properly supervise the work so it is performed in a safe manner.

It’s important to know that the Labor Law’s protection is much broader than “ladders and scaffolds.” Two recent court cases are a good examples.

In one case, the construction project included the delivery and installation of kitchen and laundry room appliances. The general contractor subcontracted the purchase, delivery and installation to Whirlpool. While two Whirlpool deliverymen were hauling the appliances up a flight of stairs using a hand cart, one worker’s back gave out and he let go of the cart, causing the cart and the appliances to fall on the worker who was lower down on the stairs.

The Court held that the delivery and installation was part of the construction and that the accident resulted from an elevation-related risk that was covered by the Labor Law.

In another case, an iron worker fell while walking along a retaining wall to access a job site. Again, the Court held that this was the type of elevation-related risk that is covered by the law, particularly because the other access point to the construction site was blocked by snow and debris.

These cases are a good reminder that whenever a construction site accident involves the force of gravity, the Labor Law may provide a basis to hold the owner or general contractor responsible for the resulting injury.

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