New York Construction Safety Laws: They Cover More Jobs Than You May Realize

If you work in, or are familiar with, construction in New York, you may have a general understanding of construction injury law. For example, if a construction worker falls several stories off a scaffold because he wasn’t given a safety harness or a proper place to tie off that harness, you may generally understand that worker is someone who could sue for his injuries. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that these laws protect many more people than just those “hardhat” workers on scaffolds. In other words, your injury may entitle you to sue and you may not even know it. That’s why it’s always best not to assume. Instead, consult with a knowledgeable New York City construction accident attorney.

For example, look at the case of S.E. S.E. worked for a “telecommunications company in the business of installing low voltage wiring for businesses.” One day, S.E.’s employer instructed him to install cable in an office space in Manhattan. S.E.’s job consisted of pulling cabling through a drop ceiling in the office space.

While doing that job, S.E. hit his head on a steel beam and suffered significant injuries, so he sued. His lawsuit included a claim under a statute known as Labor Law Section 241(6). (That law says that, if your job site is in violation of New York’s safety regulations and that violation causes your injury, then you are entitled to seek compensation.)

This worker’s lawsuit asserted that his injury was the result of a violation of New York’s safety codes; namely, the regulation that says that “sufficient for safe working conditions shall be provided wherever persons are required to work or pass in construction, demolition and excavation operations.” S.E.’s lawsuit alleged that the worker hit his head because the space into which he inserted himself was completely dark.

There seems to have been no dispute that the area where the accident occurred was, in fact, dark. The defense’s case against S.E. argued that this didn’t matter. Labor Law Section 241(6) only covers a limited number of construction-related activities and, according to the defense, the job S.E. was performing wasn’t one of those “covered activities.”

Making a ‘significant physical change’ to the building is the key

Fortunately for S.E., his legal counsel recognized that the work he was doing potentially was a “covered activity.” The law covers jobs related to “construction, excavation or demolition.” New York courts have, in the past, ruled that jobs like S.E.’s can be covered tasks if they “involved making a significant physical change to the configuration or composition of the building or structure, not a simple, routine activity.” In this worker’s circumstance, he was running cables through the ceiling, and “’running cables’ is considered to be a ‘significant physical change’ … and not ‘routine’ maintenance,” which meant that he was allowed to continue pursuing his claim seeking damages.

The main thing to take away from this case is that, if you are hurt at your construction or construction-related job, don’t let someone who isn’t a legal professional tell you that you can’t sue because the work you were doing isn’t covered by the laws that protect injured workers. Be sure you are getting knowledgeable legal advice and aggressive advocacy that you can trust. Contact the experienced New York City construction injury attorneys at Arcia & Associates, where we have spent many years helping a wide array of workers involved in many kinds of construction activities to get the compensation they deserve.

Contact us at (718) 651-4363 today.

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