Down the Hole

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Q: My employer was tasked with removing asbestos from the City’s underground electrical cables.  Around each manhole, we would first construct a three-sided wooden enclosure, with plastic sheets on the ceiling, the floor and the open side.  Then a circle was cut out of the plastic floor to account for the manhole.

At the conclusion of our shift, at 4:00 a.m., we were required to (1) bring up the asbestos-filled bags, (2) remove our protective equipment and the ladder, (3) replace the manhole cover and (4) disassemble the enclosure.  One day, somebody left out step no. 3.  The lights had been turned off, and I did not notice that the manhole remained uncovered.  So I fell right into it.

A: Your work involved an elevation-related hazard.  Under Labor Law § 240(1), the City was obliged to furnish or erect certain devices so as to give you proper protection.  The statute renders the property owner liable regardless of whether it supervised or controlled your work.  One such device might be a guard rail system around the open manhole.  I would imagine that your attorney will argue that, had guard rails been in place, you would not have fallen.

Your employer’s safety consultant may well be liable, too.  Your attorney is likely to argue that the safety consultant should have ensured that a guard rail system was in place and that the manhole was covered before the enclosure was disassembled.  He or she will seek evidence that the safety consultant had the authority to control the activity which brought about this tragedy.

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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