Subcontractors and Scaffolds

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Q: Along the church tower, there had been full scaffolding.  In order to complete some lead abatement work, the subcontractor had removed the planks so as to access the surface areas of the church walls.  Afterwards, the subcontractor had failed to replace this planking.

I was employed by the general contractor, who ordered me to replace the removed planks.  While doing so, I fell through a two-foot-wide opening between the church wall and the level of scaffolding.

A: Section 240(1) of the Labor Law imposes a non-delegable duty upon commercial owners and general contractors to provide safety devices to protect workers from elevation-related risks.  You must demonstrate a violation of the statute and that such violation proximately caused your injuries. Where there is no statutory violation, or where you are the sole proximate cause of your own injuries, there can be no recovery under the section.

By demonstrating that you were not provided with safety devices to properly protect you from the elevation-related risk created by the two-foot-wide scaffold opening, and that this failure proximately caused your accident, you make a prima facie showing of your entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on a section 240(1) cause of action against your employer, the g.c.

Against the subcontractor, you are limited to a cause of action alleging common-law negligence.  A subcontractor may be held liable for negligence where the work it performed created the condition that caused your injury even if it did not possess any authority to supervise and control your work.  The subcontractor’s employees are said to have created an unreasonable risk of harm that was the proximate cause of your injuries.

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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