Causes of Scaffolding Accidents and Collapses in New York

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NYC Attorneys Explain the Causes of Scaffolding Accidents and Collapses, Including Common Injuries

Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in New York.  One of the inherent traits that make construction so dangerous is that workers often need to be working from a height.  Sometimes this may only be a few feet off the ground, while other times it may be several stories.  Anytime someone is working from a height, there is a risk of falling, serious injury, or wrongful death. Our NYC Labor Law attorneys know just how true this is, as statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths in the United States.  This is why New York law deputizes employers, contractors, owners, and certain other individuals to provide safety equipment to workers such as scaffolding.  However, defective, improper, and damaged scaffolding can result in scaffolding accidents and collapses in New York.

At Keith D. Silverstein & Associates, P.C., our NYC construction accident attorneys are dedicated to helping injured construction workers and their families recover compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, loss of consortium, and other compensation for scaffolding accidents and collapses in New York.  Learn how our personal injury law firm can help you by dialing (866) 492-7487 to schedule your FREE consultation.


The New York State Legislature acknowledges just how dangerous construction can be for workers.  The legislative history and intent expressly note how it is the duty of an employer, contractor, certain owners, or other similar managers to provide worker safety.  This is why Labor Law section 240 deputizes property owners and contractors to protect workers from falls with property safety equipment and protections.  This includes scaffolding.

A defendant who fails to provide scaffolding or other protections for workers may be “strictly liable” for a worker’s injuries in a fall from a height.  To learn more about liability in a scaffolding fall, visit one of our latest posts available here.

Causes of Scaffolding Accidents and Collapses

Even if a defendant provides scaffolding, it is not enough if the scaffolding is not safe.  This means that improperly constructed, damaged, defective, inadequate, or otherwise hazardous scaffolding could also result in strict liability if a worker is injured.

There are many ways that scaffolding could be inadequate or result in a worker’s injury.  Some of the most common causes of scaffolding accidents and collapses in New York that our NYC Labor Law attorneys can handle for you include the following:

Scaffolding Tipping Over

All scaffolding must be properly built according to the manufacturer’s directions.  The most important instruction is that the scaffolding is built on a stable foundation and braced.  This requires the scaffolding to be secured to the ground in a manner that distributes the weight and stabilizes the structure, often with planks of wood or plywood.  Other times using bricks or heavy weights could help stabilize the foundation holding the scaffolding legs.

But that is not enough.  Scaffolding also should have other points of contact supported against a structure.  This includes nailing, screwing, or otherwise fastening scaffolding to the side of the structure.  Think of it as bracing a dresser or piece of furniture in a toddler’s room; the base needs to be sturdy, but there also needs to be adequate guards to prevent the scaffolding from tipping over.

A properly supported, stabilized and braced scaffolding will not tip over.  Therefore, if you were injured in a scaffolding accident or collapse in New York where the scaffolding was tipped over, it is likely that the scaffolding was inadequate and not properly secured.  You may be entitled to compensation under New York law.

Scaffolding Collapses

Even if scaffolding is properly supported and braced, it could still collapse for several reasons.  This includes some of the following:

  • Improperly maintained and deteriorating
  • Old, rusted, and beyond its useful life
  • Damaged, bent, or otherwise compromised (i.e., bent or dented upright support beams could fail)
  • Loading too much weight for the scaffolding
  • Using old, damaged, rotted, or otherwise compromised wood on scaffolding for walking/standing
  • Improperly installing the scaffolding, such as not fastening them together properly, and
  • Other unsafe practices with scaffolding could cause it to collapse in on itself.

Electrocutions on Scaffolding

Scaffolding is not just dangerous because it can tip over or collapse.  Most scaffolding has a metal framework.  This metal framework is a strong conductor of electricity.  Electrocution is always a risk on a construction site, especially after inclement weather or when other contractors are making concrete cuts or tile cuts with wet saws.  Many construction sites become tangled messes of weaving electric wires and extension cords.  This creates a huge risk for individuals on scaffolds to be electrocuted and seriously injured or wrongfully killed.

Using Improper Materials for Scaffolds

Some defendants may recognize that they need scaffolds but are either ill-prepared or trying to save money by cutting corners.  As a result, some defendants will use other materials on a construction site to create makeshift scaffolds.  Not only are these not proper under the Labor Law, but they can be more dangerous than not using them at all.

Some of the most common examples include the following:

  • Re-using concrete footing frames as scaffolding by nailing them to the sides of a structure to stand on
  • Piling stacks of barrels, lumber, or other equipment for workers to climb on to stand on
  • Stacking debris like removed or downed trees, extracted rocks, or other materials for workers to stand on to work from a height
  • Using machines like a forklift or bucket loader to put workers on and elevate them, and
  • Other improper and unsafe practices that do not satisfy the labor law.

Common Injuries from Scaffolding Accidents and Collapses

Our NYC Labor Law attorneys know that construction accidents can cause serious injuries or wrongful death, especially in scaffolding accidents and collapses.  Some of the most catastrophic and disabling injuries are caused by falls.  This includes some of the following:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) such as a concussion, penetrating brain injury, diffuse axonal injury, or others
  • Spinal cord injuries such as paraplegia or quadriplegia
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Neck injuries or back injuries, including those needing spinal fusions
  • Organ injuries
  • Amputations
  • Significant scarring or disfigurement
  • Shoulder injuries or damages, including the need for a partial or total replacement
  • Knee injuries including the need for a replacement
  • Crushing injuries from scaffolding or equipment falling down on top of a worker in a collapse
  • Nerve injuries and damages from piercing injuries or falling on a vital structure
  • Skull fractures or orbital fractures, and
  • Many other serious and catastrophic injuries, including wrongful death after a scaffolding accident of collapse in New York.

Were You Injured in a Scaffolding Accident or Collapse in New York?  Our NYC Labor Law Attorneys Can Help You

If you or a loved one were seriously injured in any type of construction accident in New York, especially a scaffolding accident or collapse, call our experienced NYC Labor Law attorneys at Keith D. Silverstein & Associates, P.C. for a FREE consultation by dialing (646) 813-3922 or sending us a secure message on our “contact us” page available here.  We pay the upfront costs and disbursements of a case, which are only reimbursed after we recover compensation for you in a settlement, verdict, or court award.  The same is true of our lawyer fees, which are only a percentage of what we recover for you and only paid after we recover it for you.

This means there is no upfront costs or financial risk to working with our compassionate and experienced bodily injury law firm.  Call today to learn how to get started with our team.