The 1885 law enacted in New York when the first skyscrapers began being built which protect workers from fall-from-height accidents is still in force today, and not a lot of people are happy about it.
Labor Law § 240, more commonly known as the Scaffold Law, essentially places all the liability for construction site injuries of workers on the contractor or construction company no matter if the worker was partly or entirely at fault. Others characterize it as “absolute” liability which critics say is unfair to conscientious and law-abiding contractors that ensure the safety of their workers to the best of their ability. There have been numerous attempts to modify the law, understandably mostly by construction companies and their insurers, but so far it remains essentially the same.
The main contention of these would-be reformers is that the law is hurting the industry by driving up costs. But as stated in the website of Hach & Rose, the fact is that some contractors and construction companies cut corners when it comes to the safety of their workers, making a construction site even more dangerous than it has to be. This is one of the main reasons that the Scaffold Law came into being in the first place.
Construction workers are constantly in danger of serious injury because of the nature of the work, but it would be incredible to suggest that they would risk life and limb simply to collect damages under the Scaffold Law. It is undeniable that there are accidents that are due to the worker’s own negligence, but this is by far the minority.
While modifying the Scaffold Law to put liability on a comparative fault basis may be a good idea, there is little impetus to push this beyond the proposal stage at this point. Construction workers in New York are still under the current terms of the Scaffold Law.
Regardless of the type of workplace an individual may be working in, safety should be among his/her top concerns. This same concern was what led the US Congress in passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) in 1970 with the goal of making sure that all employers (of private and government firms) provide their employees with a working environment that is free from known hazards, like excessive levels of noise, heat stress or cold stress, contact with toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, and all forms of unsanitary conditions.
In a regular office environment, measures that will ensure the safety and health of employees can be easy to observe; with regard to industrial working environments, such as construction sites, oil rigs, power or nuclear plants, manufacturing firms, factories, mills, mining fields, and so forth, the meaning of ‘freedom from hazard’ (or even the word ‘hazard’ itself) will have to take off from a much higher level of platform.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics records around 3 million injuries every all, all involving industrial workers. These injuries are usually caused by broken or unsafe scaffoldings, exposure to dangerous chemicals, contact with heavy machinery, malfunctioning heavy equipment, being hit by falling tools or objects, falling off from a high working place, slip and fall, and so forth.
An industrial accident can leave a worker with a life-changing injury that can cause a crippling financial situation for him/her and (his/her) family. According to the website of Crowe & Mulvey, these permanent injuries can have lifelong consequences that are incredibly costly to the family, both socially and financially.
Besides injuries, industrial work can also cause a deadly chronic illness, especially in those who are regularly exposed to toxic substances. Workers, whose share of exposure to hazardous chemicals is on a daily basis, ought to be aware of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of 1986. This law, which is also known as the Right-to-Know law or Worker Right-to-Know Legislation, gives workers the right to be informed about the dangers they are exposed to and how they can safeguard themselves from such dangers.
A Detroit personal injury lawyer is well aware that industrial work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. Among the many types of injuries that it has already caused are second or third degree burn, fractured or broken neck, broken bones, severe cut and/or bruising, hemorrhage, suffocation, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, paraplegia or selective paralysis, and/or quadriplegia or complete paralysis; in some worst case, industrial accidents have also led to the amputation of limbs or death of victims.
However, speaking with an attorney can help victims seek justice for their injuries and for all the damages he or she is (and will be) faced with.