Labor Law 3 : Poor Platform

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Q:  At a construction site, I was assigned the task of welding a 30-inch seam near the top of a shaft that was some 50 feet deep.  A temporary platform was placed over the shaft to enable me to perform this task.

In order to reach the seam, I had to sit at the platform’s edge, extend one leg forward against the top edge of the shaft and stretch forward, and down, with my upper torso and head.  Although I had complained about having to work in this position and had asked my supervisor to provide a ladder instead, I was told that I had to complete the welding job from the temporary platform, because of time constraints.

After working from the platform for some 2 1/2 hours, I experienced difficulty and pain when I attempted to straighten my back.  I was unable to stand up straight and was forced to crawl off the platform.

A: Labor Law § 240(1) is called the Scaffold Law.  It requires most contractors and owners to furnish or erect “scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices” so as to give proper protection to construction workers employed on the premises.

The duty imposed by section 240(1) is non-delegable.  An owner or contractor who breaches that duty may be held liable in damages regardless of whether it has actually exercised supervision or control over the work.

However, the provision is aimed only at elevation-related hazards.  Although your makeshift scaffold was inadequate, the device did serve the core objective of section 240(1) – preventing you from falling down the shaft.  In that regard, the device did not malfunction and was not defective in its design.  Our courts will hold that you cannot rely on 240(1) as a basis for recovery.

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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