Text Us

Ladder Accidents on Construction Sites in New York

by Michael Rose and Brandon Cotter

Construction sites are hazardous places. In fact, when compared to job-related deaths in other lines of work in the United States, construction held the highest number. This can be linked to the high levels of activity associated with construction sites. They are typically very lively and fast paced, with different people working on different tasks at the same time. These tasks can range from maneuvering heavy-duty trucks that haul material from place to place, working from open heights and excavations, as well as significant noise simultaneously on site. Workers are generally in contact with powerful machinery such as forklifts, trucks and cranes. If improperly advised on their correct use, they may result in harm to the worker. Standing alone, these heavy-duty machines are dangerous in nature. That danger increases immensely if negligently or recklessly administered. Additionally, construction workers are often required to ascend to great heights and work on roadsides where construction mishaps have an increased potential to occur.

How Many Ladder Injuries Occur Each Year?

About a thousand workers die each year as a result of injuries sustained on the job. The ways in which a worker can sustain an injury on the job are infinite. A worker may fall from a building as a result of a faulty scaffold or into a hole or ditch on the construction site. Ladders are another tool routinely used at construction sites. While a ladder appears less dangerous than a forklift, truck, or crane on its face, construction workers are regularly injured if they are not properly safeguarded. Injuries at construction sites are primarily caused by falls from scaffolds, followed by accidents involving ladders. In order to ensure safe use of ladders at worksites, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has implemented regulations to deter the number of ladder-related incidents. Falls are the leading cause of death at construction sites according to OSHA. Moreover, one third of these deaths involve ladders.

What Injuries Can You Get from Falling Off a Ladder?

Because ladders raise the worker to significant heights, the resulting injuries can be serious. Most ladder injuries are severe and will require immediate care from a hospital or physician. Below is a list of just some of the most common injuries a worker may suffer when falling from a ladder:

  • Broken bones or a broken back
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Skull fractures
  • Concussions, head injuries, and persistent headaches
  • Swelling, bruising, and serious cuts
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Hip fractures
  • Weakness or numbness in limbs

Many traumatic brain injuries are caused by a fall from a ladder. It is crucial that if you suffer a fall from a ladder that you go to the hospital immediately. Untreated head injuries can lead to much more severe consequences down the line and may result in permanent injury. Even if your fall was only a height of a couple of feet, you could still suffer serious injury like bone fractures. Don’t assume that you can continue working your shift after you’ve suffered a fall. The best practice in the event of an injury on a job site is to seek professional medical care to determine if you have any serious injuries.

Labor Law Section 240

Fortunately, the State of New York has the strongest laws in our nation to protect construction workers. Labor Law Sections 200, 240, and 241 provide these protections. The New York State Legislature has enacted laws that charge owners and contractors with complete responsibility for height related accidents should they occur. Specifically, New York State Labor Law section 240(1) provides that: “All contractors and owners and their agents … in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect … for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.”

Assuming that a contractor cannot engineer out the height related risk to protect its workforce prior to the start of the work, the owner and contractor has an absolute responsibility to ensure that all construction workers are provided with proper and adequate fall protection and equipment required for the workers to safely perform all required job activities. Importantly, the New York State Legislature has barred owners and contractors from passing this obligation onto others. Simply put, if a worker is injured as a result of a fall from a height, it is likely that a court will find a violation of Labor Law section 240(1), and thereby hold the owner and contractor responsible for all resulting damages caused by the fall.

Most Common Causes of Ladder Accidents

Failure to adhere to proper ladder safety can result in life-threatening injuries for workers. Selecting the wrong type of ladder, incorrect placement of ladders, improper use of ladders, and using worn or damaged ladders are just a few of the ways in which accidents may happen. As construction workers are in contact with ladders quite regularly for jobs involving painting and carpentry, the potential for injury is heightened. Issues arise when contractors mistakenly implement certain ladders that are not equipped for the task at hand. Most jobs at construction sites require a particular type of ladder to complete the job safely. When a contractor wrongly assigns a type of ladder for a job it is not suited to complete, injury is likely unavoidable.

As falls from heights are among the leading cause of grave and fatal injuries suffered by construction workers, the need for immediate attention to protect these workers is paramount. These injuries are a public health peril and require a comprehensive understanding of the factors involved. These injuries can be prevented if proper safety procedures are strictly followed and administered by employers. Maintaining regular ladder inspections to make sure they are kept in good condition is a small, yet crucial procedure employers need to implement for the well-being of their employees. The most common ladder hazards are linked with the misuse of portable ladders not in harmony with their terms. OSHA has stated that roughly 36.5% of all deaths in the workplace transpired due to employees falling off ladders, roofs, and scaffolding. In order to reduce the number of fall-related deaths, it is of the utmost importance for workers and employers to take proper precautions at all times and to remain aware of their surroundings.

Due to the great heights that ladders enable construction workers to reach, injuries are often the outcome when provided faulty equipment. While each construction worker suffers harm differently as a result of ladder-related accidents, there are several injuries that are also shared among them. Head injuries such as traumatic brain damage and skull fractures, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and death are just a few of them. The extent of the injuries a worker suffers may depend on how much of the ladder a worker has climbed prior to the fall, how they fall, what type of surface they fall on, and the part of the body that hits the ground first. Other factors such as the age of the worker, the worker’s medical history, and the current state of health of the worker at the time of the fall can attribute to the severity of the injury and its aftermath.

Injuries from Defective, Insufficient, and Missing Ladders

If the owner or contractor is not paying attention to ladder safety, mistakes and injuries will occur. The ladders may be defective, broken, not high enough for the job, not sturdy enough for the weight it must hold, or, in some circumstances, a worker may not be given a ladder when it is needed. All of these situations can lead to serious injury.

For example, a carpenter who is performing height-related renovation at an office building and was not provided a ladder to perform those activities. Instead, the carpenter, feeling pressure to complete the work pursuant to the contractor’s schedule, uses a wobbly and unbalanced desk to reach the necessary height to perform the work. In this scenario, the owner and contractor would face liability based on a violation of Labor Law section 240(1). The owner and contractor would be held responsible for all of the injured worker’s proven damages.

Ladders that have damaged rungs, missing rubber feet, broken support braces, or are unstable due to being old and warped all cause serious risks for construction workers who work at heights. Prior to use, all ladders should be inspected to ensure that they are in proper working order. Workers should be suspect of any ladder that is not sturdy, has broken pieces, or where the safety label has been painted over. Owners and contractors should never provide their workforce with defective ladders because they are inherently unsafe.

In defense of a lawsuit, owners and contractors routinely try to blame the injured construction worker, who they are charged with protecting pursuant to the law, for not inspecting the ladder or for improperly placing the ladder. Rather than accepting responsibility, they try to blame workers for causing their own accident and resulting injuries. Notably, Labor Law section 240(1) prevents an owner and contractor from making this argument because the worker’s actions, or inactions, are not taken into account when considering liability.

Another example is an electrical worker who needs to reach a height of 14 feet above the floor to perform his/her work is given an 8-foot, A-frame ladder instead of an extension ladder. To reach this height, a 6-foot-tall worker would have to stand on the top rung of the A-frame ladder, which would be an improper use as per the warnings contained on the A-frame ladder itself and in the ladder manufacturer’s manual. This would be an example of a situation where the owner and contractor put the construction worker at risk by providing the wrong type of ladder for the particular height related task.

To safely work on any type of ladder, three-points of contact is required. If this cannot be achieved, then a ladder is not the proper height related device for the identified activity. An example of this type of accident scenario would be if a construction worker was provided a ladder to install HVAC ducts. Certainly, it would be impossible for the worker to be able to maintain three-points of contact on the ladder while holding an HVAC duct with two hands. In this scenario, it would be all too easy for the worker to fall while either climbing the ladder with his/her hands full or when installing the HVAC duct. Here, the worker was not provided with the proper safety device because he/she should have been provided a scaffold or mechanical lift rather than a ladder.

Another example would be an electrical worker who is instructed to pull cable in a drop ceiling. Again, this type of activity would require a scaffold as opposed to a ladder because the worker would not be able to maintain three-points of contact on the ladder while also using two hands to pull the cable. Additionally, the act of pulling the cable could cause the worker to lean too far to the side, thereby causing the worker to fall from a height because the ladder kicked out from under them. This is yet another scenario where the worker was not provided with the proper safety device because they should have been provided a scaffold or mechanical lift rather than a ladder.

It is undisputed that construction workers face significant and life-threatening height related risks every day. All of the above noted scenarios present Labor Law section 240(1) violations if a worker was involved in any of these height related types of falls, and New York State law would hold the owner and contractor responsible for all of the injured worker’s proven damages that resulted from the fall.

Fighting for Injured Workers

In order to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, it must be found that the defendant owed a duty to the worker to provide for the worker’s safety, and to provide equipment that is safe for the worker to use. Generally speaking, any party that supplies or maintains ladders, scaffolding, or fall protection equipment owes a duty to the workers that use that equipment to ensure that equipment is safe. Similarly, a defective product that is unjustly dangerous or performs below reasonable standards may result in liability on the manufacturer and/or supplier if that product injures someone.

Workers’ compensation affords injured workers with benefits, such as medical benefits, permanent impairment benefits, benefits for vocational rehabilitation, and weekly benefits in order to compensate those injured. However, these benefits are rarely able to fully compensate injured workers for their losses. The issue with the benefits provided are that they do not incorporate, for example, the loss of future earning potential, emotional pain and suffering, future medical expenses, and the loss of quality of life. Fortunately, injured workers may seek damages for these issues through a traditional personal injury lawsuit.

Contact a New York Ladder Accident Lawyer Today

All too often, the owners and contractors prioritize profits and compressed schedules over worker safety. If you or someone you know is a construction worker who has been injured on the job in the State of New York, it is essential that you contact a skilled personal injury firm regarding your legal rights and options. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we recognize that each client has one chance to be compensated when they are injured. Our recent results portray our success in compensating injured workers as a result of ladder accidents. These results include a jury verdict totaling over 12 million dollars for a ladder-related accident and many settlements that include both seven figure and six figure recoveries.

The firm routinely achieves the largest results in the State of New York, as reported by the New York Jury Verdict Reporter. In both jury verdicts and settlements, Hach & Rose, LLP succeeds in attaining the highest amount possible. Whether you have suffered your injury as a result of perilous construction site conditions, scant training, incompetent supervision, insufficient safety procedures, and/or substandard or obsolete construction and safety equipment, Hach & Rose, LLP is equipped, proficient, and passionate to bring you the justice you deserve! Do not hesitate to contact the experienced and knowledgeable New York ladder injury attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057 or online.

SEO for Lawyers