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OSHA Releases New Communication Tower Directive

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently released an updated directive related to workers performing construction work on communication towers. The new directive expands the responsibilities of contractors using hoists to lift personnel up the towers in an effort to improve construction worker safety. The new directive comes after a sharp increase in communication tower worker fatalities. In 2013 alone, there were twice as many communication tower fatalities as there were in the previous two years combined, and 2014 is on pace to match that number. The new directive is also interesting in relation to the ongoing debate about New York's "Scaffold Law," a law that makes contractors liable for worker injuries suffered during elevated work. 

The New Directive

OSHA's new directive expands the compliance standard for workers working on communication towers. The major change in the standards is that in the past the standards only applied during the tower's erection, but now, OSHA requires compliance with the standards during other, ongoing work on the tower as well. These expanded compliance standards include instructions on the proper hoisting technology, weight limits for hoisting the workers, and the proper types of training that communication tower workers should receive.

Labor Law 240

This new communication tower directive is particularly interesting in light of the current legislative fight going on over New York's labor law 240, commonly referred to as the scaffold law. The scaffold law creates a "strict liability" standard for worker injuries that occur during elevated work. This means that even if the employer was being careful or the injury was partially the fault of the worker's carelessness, the employer is still liable for the worker's injuries. While the law used to apply more narrowly, recent court decisions have expanded it to the point that now, virtually any injury caused by gravity, such as a falling worker or a falling object, would qualify as an injury under the scaffold law.

Despite the clear dangers of elevated work that this new OSHA directive demonstrates, the legislature is engaged in a debate over whether to modify the scaffold law. The change would shift the standard from one of strict liability to one of negligence. The difference being that a negligence standard would only hold employers liable for workers' injuries in cases where the injury resulted from an employer's carelessness. Additionally, the negligence standard would allow courts to consider workers' actions and whether they contributed to their injury. This is something currently absent from the way these cases are decided.

If you have recently been injured in a fall from a communication tower or other construction accident, seek help from an experienced New York City construction accident attorney today. Our firm's team of dedicated professionals is here to help you get the money you deserve.

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