Fall on the job and a 134-year-old New York law could catch you

Western New York Personal Injury Law Blog

Fall on the job and a 134-year-old New York law could catch you

They say it isn’t the fall that hurts you– it’s the sudden stop. Injury happens at impact, whether you’re the falling object, or the falling object hits you. An old law could cover any falling that occurs on the job.

New York state law looks to hold owners and contractors liable in the event of a gravity-related event with Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law, known as the Scaffold Law. Meant to protect construction laborers in New York City as buildings began topping 20 stories, these protections still stretch over to Western New York workers over a century later. If you’re injured and gravity is to blame, you could file suit to recoup losses beyond what workers’ compensation covers.

Hand-me-down protection

The law was put in place to protect workers in 1885. There were no federal protections for workers at the time, so states came up with their own safety regulations. Every state except New York has since dropped specific statutes to cede authority to plans like workers’ compensation insurance.

Lofty standards

Routine maintenance and cleaning don’t usually fall under the Scaffold Law. The law applies to construction work on “structures” as defined by the law, like buildings, tunnels, parking garages and water towers. You’re not likely to be eligible under the law if you’re painting or changing HVAC filters on a one-story home.

The law’s platform

The Scaffold Law can cover you if your job falls within the boundaries:

  • Construction: Building, demolishing, repairing or altering a building.
  • Finishing: Painting, pointing and cleaning up a job site.
  • Devices: Installing and operating the law’s namesake, as well as hoists, ladders, pulleys, braces and other devices.
  • Scaffolding: There are specific safety rules regarding setup and use, like safety rail height and weight-bearing requirements.

It may be an old law, but things are still falling today as they did back then. Know your rights under the Scaffold Law, and make sure you get the restoration you deserve.


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