Take a drive around Central New York in this nice springtime weather and you’ll probably see workers up on ladders and roofs, repairing roofs, gutters or doing other types of construction work. But you probably don’t look at construction work the same way I do. As a Syracuse New York construction accident lawyer, I see laws being broken! The workers are not breaking the law, but the contractors who hire them and the owners of the buildings they are working on are.
Under New York’s Labor Law and Federal law (OSHA), construction workers working from heights are required to be tied up with a full-body harness attached to a shock-absorbing lanyard or a retractable lifeline. A lanyard or lifeline stops the worker from hitting the ground – instead his fall is arrested on the way down. And because lanyards and lifelines are made to absorb shock, the gravitational forces on the body are minimized. The full-body harness then distributes the remaining gravitational forces of the fall throughout the entire body so as minimize the risk of strain or injury to any part of the body.
The contractor and owner of the building are also supposed to ensure that the ladders workers use to get up to the heights they are working from are tied down, both at the bottom and the top.
Despite these laws, over and over again I see painters, roofers and other workers on rooftops and ladders with no fall protection at all. They are working from untied ladders, and strolling around on rooftops free as birds – but without the benefit of wings!
Here’s just one blatant example: Last summer as I walked from my office to the Auburn Y for a workout, I observed about a dozen workers way up on the Y’s 5-story tall roof, walking around without any lanyards or harnesses, and no fall protection at all. At that time, I happened to be Chair of the Auburn Y Board, so I immediately told our Executive Director, who then called the roofing contractor to complain that the workers were not abiding by New York Labor Law. The next day all the workers were safely tied up.
Why did I bother reporting this? If those guys want to risk their lives it’s their own business, right? Wrong.
First, I care about them. As a Central and Syracuse New York work accident lawyer, I have represented too many fallen workers, and too many of their widows, in New York construction accident cases. I have seen devastating fall-related injuries, and death, close up.
Second, under New York Labor Law 240, the general contractor and owner of the building (and sometimes others, too) are all liable to a worker (or his surviving family) who is injured or killed because he was not provided with fall protection devices (tied-down ladders, lanyards, lifelines, harnesses, etc.). So by insisting that these workers use proper fall prevention devices, I was actually doing my duty as Board Chair in protecting the Y’s assets.
Construction workers, Keep safe! Tie yourselves, and your ladders, up! But if you don’t because you are not instructed to do so, or because no fall prevention devices were made available to you, and you fall and are injured, call me — you will almost certainly have a very strong New York falling worker case against, at the very least, the general contractor and owner of the building.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.