New York Construction Accident Attorneys - Kleinick Law
 

Keith A. Kleinick, Esq.

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New York Scaffolding Law Meant To Protect Workers

A comprehensive review by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) of United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction site inspections in New York State has found that OSHA safety standards are routinely violated. Among the most frequently violated standards are those that protect construction workers who work at elevated heights. The findings of this review underscore the urgency for New York to retain Sec. 240 of the Labor Law, the “scaffold law,” which specifically protects such workers. Over 30% of OSHA violations in New York’s construction industry were of either the scaffolding or fall protection standards, demonstrating that construction workers at elevated heights are being exposed to needless accidents and injuries. Indeed, violations of the scaffolding and fall protections standards were frequently found in construction industry sub-sectors where workers are most likely to work at elevated heights. For instance, 42% of inspections of roofingsiding- sheet metal contractors found violations of the fall protection standard and 64% of inspections of masonry-stone setting contractors found violations of the scaffolding standard. Moreover, OSHA frequently assigned these violations a gravity score of “10,” the highest rating on OSHA’s 1-10 gravity scale.

For example, 52% of scaffolding standard violations and 63% of fall protection violations by apartment building general contractors were 10’s. In short, the most dangerous types of worksites were frequently plagued by widespread violations of the most serious kind: the type of violations that often have tragic consequences. There were also numerous violations of six additional safety standards that protect workers at elevated heights, including standards for ladders and for training in scaffolding and fall protection safety. Inspections in New York City, especially in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, were significantly more likely to find violations of safety standards than were inspections elsewhere. And when inspectors found violations in New York City, they usually found substantially more of them than inspectors found elsewhere. Over 80% of inspections in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx uncovered safety violations, compared to 62% in the state as a whole and 50% Upstate. Statewide, there was an average of 3.35 violations in inspections where violations were found; Upstate (north of Westchester and New Jersey), there were 2.84 violations per inspection where violations were found. But in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan there were 4.49 violations per inspection where violations were found.

The especially high violation rates occurring in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan outside of Midtown and Downtown appear to be attributable in large part to widespread safety corner cutting by the smaller construction firms which are especially active in these areas. These firms employ large numbers of lowerpaid immigrant workers and day laborers. Since they may speak little English and fear employer reprisals, immigrant and day-hire workers are in no position to press for safer worksites and, thus, the large numbers of violations. Violation rates were especially high in the construction of “affordable” housing in New York City. Many of the contractors active in lower income communities in New York City employ predominantly immigrant and day labor. Widespread use of immigrants and day labor in construction and rehabilitation of government-subsidized housing affordable by moderate and middle income families appears to have been a significant factor in the disproportionately large numbers of construction safety violations in low and moderate-income communities, which is where most of this housing has been built in recent years.


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