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Scaffold Injuries in New York City

Scaffold Injuries in New York City
When people think of New York City, a few images come to mind: skyscrapers, hot dog carts, and sidewalks crowded with pedestrians. In recent years, scaffolding has also become synonymous with the Big Apple. Scaffolds, also known as "sidewalk sheds," are temporary structures on the outside of buildings, usually made of wood or metal poles, that are used by workers while building, repairing, or cleaning. Upwards of 7,000 buildings in New York City have sidewalk sheds, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB). With the rise of scaffolding throughout the city, more injuries, both to workers and pedestrians, have occurred.

According to the Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA), 4,500 injuries and 60 deaths are due to scaffold-related accidents each year in the United States. Although scaffold-related accidents can occur for a number of reasons, a recent study by the Bureau of Labor (BLS) revealed that 72% of scaffold accidents in which a construction worker was injured occurred as a result of the planking or support giving way or to a worker slipping or falling on an object or dangerous condition. Falls, especially those from elevated heights, can result in serious injuries or death. According to the New York City Department of Health, a quarter of construction worker fatal falls occur from a scaffold.

Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe work environment for their employees. Contractors and property site owners must ensure that their safety programs are comprehensive and up to date. They must perform regular site inspections for fall hazards and the proper use and maintenance of scaffolds, guardrail systems, and safety equipment. It is also against the law for an employer to require a worker to perform a task that puts his or her safety at risk without proper training or the necessary safety equipment for that specific task.

However, it's not just construction workers that are at risk of serious injury from scaffold-related accidents. Although designed as a measure to protect pedestrian safety, the scaffolds themselves have contributed to some serious injuries to pedestrians over the years. Pedestrians on or near construction sites often suffer injuries as the result of falling objects or debris.

In February 2019, a New York City hot dog vendor was injured by falling scaffolding in Downtown Brooklyn, according to the New York Post. According to witnesses on the scene, the vendor, who has sold hot dogs from his cart at Fulton Street and Elm Place for years, was struck from above by parts of a temporary wood wall used on a construction project. Shortly after, the hot dog vendor was rushed to a Brooklyn hospital to treat his injuries.

According to the Post, following the incident, the DOB issued a violation for failing to safeguard the construction site and issued a partial stop-work order for the exterior work that was being done on the building.

Contractors and property site owners have a duty of care to protect pedestrians on or near construction or building renovation sites. Their duties may include:

Installing nets to catch debris or falling objects from scaffolds;
Clearing debris or tripping hazards from sidewalks;
Covering walkways;
Rerouting pedestrians away from areas where falling objects may occur;

Repairing lose brick, stonework, windows, or trim on a building; 

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