[PDF] New Supported Scaffold Law - Local Law 52 of 2005 Fact Sheet
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▼Legal Column: New York State Scaffold Law
By William Rothberg, Esq., Executive Director NYC SMACNA
The New York Court of Appeals' interpretation of Labor Law Section 240 (1), which was enacted in 1885, is changing.
Labor Law 240 is commonly known as the Scaffold Law. It basically provides that all owners and contractors shall furnish scaffolds, hoists, ladders, etc., which are to be constructed, placed, and operated so as to give proper protection to workers.
For many years, New York State courts including the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, have interpreted Section 240 (1) to impose strict liability upon the owner and contractor if an accident occurs. This liability was absolute even if the worker's negligence contributed to the injury. One of the cases that held this way involved a situation where ladders were present but the worker chose to scale a column without one and fell when he lost his grip. In another case, the worker had supplied his own ladder and had been negligent in regard to the maintenance of the ladder. Attempts over the years to have the law amended to take into account the contributory negligence of the workers have been unsuccessful.
In December 2003, the Court of Appeals in the Blake case reinterpreted the obligations of owners and contractors under Section 240 (1). The court addressed the question of whether a worker who was injured while using a ladder may prevail even when it was determined that the ladder was constructed and operated as to give him proper protection and that the sole cause of the injury was the fault of the worker. The court said no and found for the defendant. In this case, the worker had sought damages for injuries he sustained in a fall from an expansion ladder that accidentally retracted. The only explanation for the ladder's failure was the worker's failure to lock the extension clamps in place before climbing the rungs. The court said that owners and contractors should not be treated as insurers once they have provided a safe workplace. The court further said that the purpose of Section 240 (1) is to compel contractors and owners to comply with the law, not to penalize them when they have done so. The court concluded by stating A If the plaintiff is solely to blame for the injury, it necessarily means that there has been no statutory violation.
More recent decisions by the Court of Appeals have continued to broaden the interpretation of Section 240 (1). In one of these cases the worker failed to use an available safety line and in another the worker failed to use an available ladder. In both cases the worker lost. Basically, the court held that there were adequate safety devices available and the worker chose not to use them.
In conclusion, it appears that the Court of Appeals is no longer imposing absolute liability on owners and contractors the way it had for so many years holding that the obligations of owners and contractors do not extend beyond providing defect-free scaffolds and ladders to workers. If a worker then chooses not to use the ladder or scaffold or uses them in a negligent fashion and is injured as a result, the worker is solely responsible for his injuries and cannot recover under the statute.
This is a positive development for the construction industry. 1/9/06
Associate Membership Program Advantages
SMACNA MANUALS - SMACNA's technical manuals are the accepted standard in our industry. Through seminars, committees, and informal discussions, we keep the industry apprised of what manuals are available, explain how different manuals are best utilized, answer specific questions regarding the manuals, and seek the input of the engineering community as manuals are revised and new manuals developed. As an associate member you would be able to purchase SMACNA technical manuals at greatly discounted prices.
TRAINING - Drafting, is an important part of our industry. We have extensive training programs for our employees and plan to develop drafting programs for employees in the mechanical engineering community.
DIALOG - Many issues arise in our industry in such areas as job specifications and shop standards, among others. Through informal luncheon meetings and the work of subcommittees, we hope to address the problems and seek to develop uniform documents for the New York City HVAC industry.
POLITICAL ACTION - We would jointly monitor proposed legislation to determine its impact on our industry and to see if we can develop a joint position. This would include input to proposed changes in the New York City Building Code.
Through the aforementioned as well as a continuing dialog at meetings and social functions, we believe that our associate membership program would be mutually beneficial to both you, the engineer, and the sheet metal contractor.
Associate membership is open to an individual, partnership, or corporation engaged in any facet of the HVAC industry. The annual membership dues are $400.00. An "Application for Associate Membership Form" follows. Application Form for Associate Membership (PDF) If you are interested in becoming an Associate member, please download and complete the form, keep a copy for your files, and return it by fax to 718-855-9468. Should you have any questions, please call.
We look forward to welcoming your firm into our associate membership program. We feel confident such a union will produce many shared benefits.
Local Union No. 28 Officials and Business Agents