New Legal Protections for Carpenters and Concrete Workers
By: John A. Blyth
On February 20, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals – New York State’s highest court – issued a decision discussing key components of New York Labor Law § 241(6). Specifically, the court was asked to interpret whether an injury caused by the “back wall panel” of a concrete “form” was covered under Labor Law § 241(6).
In that case, the Plaintiff, Mr. Morris, was a carpenter working at a building construction site in Manhattan. Mr. Morris was injured when a large, flat object fell on his hand. The object that fell was the back wall panel component of a concrete form. A concrete form is a mold used in the shaping and solidification of concrete. The Court decided that even though the back wall panel comprises only one side of an unfinished form, Labor Law § 241(6) can sensibly be applied to other than a completed form, including a single back wall component.
The intent of Labor Law § 241(6) is to ensure the safety of those working in all areas of construction, excavation, and demolition. The statute mandates compliance with the Commissioner of Labor’s rules, including any nondelegable duty imposed on owners and contractors set forth in those rules. In Mr. Morris’ case, the Court found such nondelegable duty in the mandate set forth in 12 NYCRR 23-2.2 (a), which states that “forms” be “braced or tied together so as to maintain position and shape”, must be applied to the initial phase of assembling the forms, as well as the subsequent pouring stage.
Concrete is widely used for making architectural structures, foundations, walls, pavements, bridges, highways and poles. Concrete is used in large quantities almost everywhere there is a need for infrastructure. The amount of concrete used worldwide, ton for ton, is twice that of steel, wood, plastics, and aluminum combined.
Concrete work is an extremely dangerous activity. In addition to injuries caused by blow-outs and collapses during pouring phase, the assembly of the heavy concrete forms is often just as hazardous. For these reasons, we consider this decision to be a major victory for worker safety. The Court’s decision has resulted in increased protections for workers during the assembly of concrete forms, not just during the pouring phase.
It takes a skilled attorney to decipher the complex language of Labor Law § 241(6) and to determine whether the law applies to a particular accident. If you have suffered an injury on the job – whether it occurred while working with concrete or performing a different activity – we invite you to contact the experienced Labor Law § 241(6) attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP.