The first line in the article from the New York Daily News (3.3.15) reveals details of how easily a tragic accident involving workers at heights can occur. “A window washer who was leaning out a fifth-floor apartment without a harness plunged to his death in Tribeca,” reported the tabloid.
The man, who was not identified, was leaning out to clean a window when he fell. Even people who saw the washer recognized the safety issues before the accident. One witness said he was worried when he saw the man sitting outside the window holding it with his left hand and cleaning it with his right hand.
Another witness also saw the man “hanging backwards out of the window” and washing it without a harness. The window washer was believed to be in his 30s said the New York Daily News.
What the washer was doing was not only dangerous, but in violation of the law. New York state laws specifically protect window washers by requiring certain safety measures. For example, window washers must be provided with a safe means of cleaning the interior and exterior windows of buildings. These safety measures include secure ladders, lifelines, harnesses, and fall protection anchor points.
Two New York laws, New York Labor Law 240 and New York Labor Law 202, protect window washers. If violated, these laws provide the basis for a lawsuit. If a window washer is injured because of a violation of these laws, the owner of the building is responsible to pay for lost wages, medical bills, and more.
According to New York Labor Law 240, certain third parties are obliged to provide a safe environment to workers while they are working at heights. This includes providing the proper protection to a window washer. Even if a window washer was partially at fault for the accident because of carelessness or another reason, this is irrelevant to a New York labor law 240 action. This law imposes absolute liability. Third parties responsible for the safety of workers may be building owners, general contractors, project managers and others. Labor Law Section 240 is also known as the Scaffold Law.
New York Labor Law 202 requires the owner, lessee, agent and manager of every public building and general contractor involved to provide safe means for the cleaning of the widows and of exterior surfaces of a building. New York Labor Law 202 further states that the owner, lessee, agent, manager or superintendent of any such building, as well as the general contractor involved, is prohibited from requiring, permitting, suffering or allowing any window or exterior surface to be cleaned unless means are provided to enable the work to be done in a safe manner.
New York City law is on the side of window washers who have been the victim of a job-related accident