Labor Law 2 : Roof Trough

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Q: At a power plant, my employer had contracted to remove insulation that covered pipes on the roof.  The pipes were in a recessed area running the entire length of the roof.  In the center of this recess was a trough, a yard wide and a foot deep, half full with a stream of hot industrial oil.  I was trying to step across this trough.  Instead, I slipped and fell backward into the oil.

A: Your case brings to mind three of the provisions of the New York Labor Law.  Section 200(1) codifies a theory of common-law negligence.  Section 241(6) can subject owners and general contractors to vicarious liability for the negligence of subcontractors.  Section 240(1) requires contractors and owners in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure to furnish or erect certain protective devices, such as scaffolding.

While section 240(1) does not specify the hazards to be avoided, it does specify the protective means.  Some of the enumerated devices (e.g., scaffolding and ladders) are for the protection of workers in gaining access to or working at sites where elevation poses a risk.  Other of the devices (e.g., hoists, blocks, braces, irons, and stays) are used for lifting or securing loads and materials.

In section 240(1), the various tasks in which these devices are customarily needed or employed share a common characteristic.  All entail a significant risk because of the relative elevation at which the task must be performed or at which materials or loads must be positioned or secured.  Our courts have held that section 240(1) contemplates hazards that are closely related to the effects of gravity – where protective devices are called for because of a difference in elevation: either the worker is high above the ground, or an object is high above the worker.

Your location with respect to the trough does not appear to entail the section 240(1) kind of elevation-related risk.  Thus, a better route for you is through sections 200(1) and 241(6), the more general provisions.

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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