In New York City, where development has necessarily gone vertical due to a lack of land, scaffolding is necessary for the basic safety of the workers who help to construct, renovate and maintain buildings. Scaffolding is present at nearly every construction site where there is work done on the outside of a building, and it can help protect people on the ground from falling materials as much as it may help workers safely access work sites at any significant elevation.
For as much as it can help promote worker safety, scaffolding is also a source of risk. Workers can fall from scaffolding at any point and end up seriously hurt. Scaffolding could collapse if companies do not properly erect and maintain it. What do construction injury statistics in New York City say about the safety of working on scaffolding?
Scaffolding comes with innate risk
Roughly two-thirds of construction workers must do regular work on scaffolds, and the percentage is likely higher here in New York City. According to data from 2021 collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 70 construction worker deaths in New York City in 2020. Falls, many of which involved scaffolding, caused 20 of those deaths.
Several more deaths in the dangerous objects or environments category likely also involved scaffolding. Items that fall from scaffolding can cause fatal injuries as easily as workers falling. Men, especially young men of Hispanic or Latino origin, are among the most at-risk for such incidents. More than a third of the reported fatalities involved Latino and Hispanic workers
New York law has scaffolding liability rules
Given how many construction workers find themselves up on scaffolding and the undeniable association between work at a significant elevation and fatal or severe injuries, New York has some unique statutes including the so-called scaffolding law that help establish liability for businesses and property owners when someone gets hurt on scaffolding in New York.
Workers who end up hurt on scaffolding and those who lose their loved ones in an incident involving scaffolding may be able to pursue compensation through workers’ compensation coverage and/or civil litigation, depending on the nature of their circumstances. Recovering medical costs and lost wages after a scaffolding incident significant effort can be beneficial for those impacted by unsafe work conditions, like dangerous scaffolding.