Climb and Fall

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Q: While climbing over a railing of a permanent platform at a power plant, I fell.  The plant was under construction.  My employer had been hired to install electric heat tracing for this large construction project.  I had been assigned to work on the permanent platform, which was three or four stories above the ground, but had not received any instructions on how to access it.

The only route I knew required me to navigate the maze-like temporary scaffolding.  I needed to (1) climb up a scaffolding ladder near the platform, (2) step onto a scaffolding gate, and then (3) climb from the gate onto and over the three-and-a-half-foot railing of the permanent platform.  Unfortunately, no one had ever bothered to modify the gate to provide direct access to the platform.

Many of us construction workers climbed the scaffolding and climbed over railings to access the platform, rather than using a permanent ladder that was 30 feet from the scaffolding ladder.  No one ever instructed us that we were expected to use the distant permanent ladder rather than the scaffolding.  Although I wore a harness with two six-foot lanyards (ropes), the lanyards did not stop my fall.

A: Section 240(1) of the Labor Law imposes absolute liability on owners, contractors, and their agents when they fail to provide proper protection to workers employed on a construction site and this failure proximately causes injury to a worker – so long the risk against which you were not protected arose from a physically significant elevation differential.

Even though you fell ‘only’ from the railing to the platform, section 240(1) appears to apply to the facts of this case.  The defendants failed to provide you with an adequate safety device, and that failure was a proximate cause of your injuries.

The defendants also appear to be liable under section 200 of the Labor Law, which is a codification of the common-law duty to provide workers with a safe place to work.  They also appear to have violated section 241(6) of the Labor Law by failing to comply with 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(f), which requires that stairways, ramps, runways, ladders or other safe means of access be provided as the means of access to working levels above or below ground.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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