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The New York Scaffold Law—An Introduction



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The New York Scaffold Law—An Introduction

Almost 100 years ago, as skyscrapers increasingly appeared along the New York City skyline, state legislators passed a new law designed to protect workers who increasingly found themselves working far above the ground. Known as the Scaffold Law, New York Labor Law §240 mandates that certain safety precautions be taken to minimize the risk of injury to workers in accidents involving scaffolding.

New York labor law §240 requires that owners and contractors construct, place or operate scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes and other devices so as to give proper protection to workers on the site.

The statute covers not only injuries that result from defective or poorly constructed ladders or scaffolding, but also certain height-related injuries on a job site.

Though the statute does not specifically include such language, the courts in New York have consistently found that contractors or owners who don’t follow the letter of the Scaffold Law are absolutely liable for any injuries proximately caused by the breach of the law.

By assigning absolute liability, the courts have made it clear that persons injured in scaffold accidents do not have to show that the owner or contractor was negligent in any way. All that must be shown is that the requirements of the Scaffold Law were not met and that the worker suffered injury as a result.

It’s also important to understand that the courts have routinely rejected arguments by contractors or owners that they delegated their duties under the Scaffold law and are not responsible. This means that an owner or contractor cannot try to pass the blame off on anyone else.

The responsibility for ensuring that scaffolds are safe falls with the owner or contractor and cannot be assigned to anyone else.

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