The taller a building is, the more elevators, stairwells, and other vertical passages will have to be built to allow access to higher floors. Unfortunately, building these passages carries significant dangers for construction workers—including the risk of potentially fatal falls. The New York Industrial Code has specific provisions to ensure the safety of workers in these spaces, and employers who fail to follow them may be held liable for injury costs.
Protection of Persons in Shafts Under the NY Industrial Code
NY Labor Law 241 requires owners and contractors to make construction sites as safe as possible for workers. Under Section 241(6), owners and contractors must comply with any rules made by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor to carry out the provisions of the law.
The Department of Labor has created specific construction safety rules in Part 23 of the New York Industrial Code to protect people employed in construction, demolition, or excavation work. Part 23-2.5 dictates how employers should protect employees from falls and injuries in shafts.
N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 12 § 23-2.5 requires:
Protection from falling material
A tight covering of planks at least two inches thick full size or material of equivalent strength must be installed to cover the entire cross-sectional area of the shaft no more than two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less, above the level where employees are working.
To minimize fall injuries, a tight platform consisting of planks at least two inches thick full size or material of equivalent strength must be installed no more than one story or 15 feet, whichever is less, in the shaft below the level where employees are working. An approved life net may be provided instead of a platform if installed in the shaft no more than one story or 15 feet, whichever is less, below the level where employees are working.
Head injury prevention
If stair halls, stairwells, or other similar shafts are to be constructed of masonry, floor slab forms or planking at least two inches thick full size must be installed as the work progresses no more than two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less, below the story where brickwork or masonry is erected.
Special Safety Measures for Workers in Elevator Shafts
The law also has specific safety provisions to protect people working in or at elevator shafts. To prevent elevator injuries during construction, these workers must be provided with:
During installation, repair, or replacement of any elevator that requires persons to work in the elevator shaft, a tight platform of adequate strength must be installed no more than two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less, above the level where work is being performed to protect against falling objects and materials. These platforms must cover the entire cross-sectional area of the shaft, except 12 inches or less for rail clearance between the edge of the platform and the sides of the shaft. For workers stacking elevator rails, these platforms must be installed immediately above the hitch point of the hoisting equipment.
Where workers must be present inside a shaft to install, repair, or replace an elevator, a solid or wire mesh partition must be provided where necessary to prevent workers from contacting any adjacent operable elevator or counterweight.
Protection at intermediate levels
If work is performed between stories in elevator shafts, overhead protection of at least 27 inches in width must cover the area where the persons are working to catch falling objects or materials. Workers in intermediate levels between stories must also be protected against falling with either an approved and compliant life net or planking at least two inches thick full size (or other material of equivalent strength). Fall protection must be located not more than two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less, below the point in the elevator shaft where people are working. Instead of an approved life net or substantial covering, workers may use approved safety belts or harnesses securely attached to hanging lifelines.
Platforms must be installed level with the top landing of each elevator shaft in which work is being performed to prevent any person from falling into such shaft. In addition, shaft doors shall be kept closed while any work is being conducted in existing elevator shafts, except where it is necessary to keep a door open to perform the job. If a door must be open, the elevator car must be locked at such landing, and a chain or other barrier between 36 and 42 inches in height must be placed across the door opening, or a person shall be stationed at the opening to prevent unauthorized entrance.
Let Us Help You After a Construction Shaft Injury
If you or someone you love was injured in a stairwell or elevator shaft, the New York construction injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer could help you get the payment they deserve. Contact us today to discuss your next steps, or learn more about your rights in our FREE guide, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.