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Overview of Labor Law 200: Common Law Negligence

“All places … shall be so constructed, equipped, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to the lives, health and safety of all persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places. All machinery, equipment and devices in such places shall be so placed, operated, guarded and lighted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection to all such persons.”

New York State promulgated laws which give special protection to workers who are injured in construction accidents. Construction accidents can include injuries occurring in the course of demolition, renovation, alteration, or repair of structures or buildings. Section 200 of the labor law requires owners and contractors to take reasonable steps to protect workers and provide reasonably safe workplaces that are fully under their control. If a worker is injured due to an unreasonably unsafe workplace, he or she may be entitled to compensation.

Labor Law 200: Common Law Negligence

Labor Law §200 imposes a negligence standard upon owners and contractors and mandates that they provide a reasonably safe environment for all visitors and employees who are on the worksite. The definition of “workplace” or “worksite” within the Labor Law is given broad interpretation. Thus, covered areas are not limited to the areas where the actual construction is being performed, but includes adjacent areas such as passageways or walkways to and from the work areas. Labor Law §200 applies to work place safety in terms of construction, equipment, arrangement, operation, lighting and conduct of the work place, as well as the placement, operation and guarding of equipment, machinery and devices. Persons covered under this section include employees and persons lawfully frequenting the work site. The statute applies to the owner/landlord and/or contractor that have supervision and control.

Labor Law §200 Cases involving Labor Law § 200 fall into two broad categories: namely, those where workers are injured as a result of dangerous or defective premises conditions at a work site, and those involving the manner in which the work is performed. Where a premises condition is at issue, owners may be held liable for a violation of Labor Law § 200 if the owner or general contractor either created the dangerous condition that caused the accident or had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.

When a claim arises out of alleged defects or dangers in the methods or materials of the work, recovery against the owner or general contractor can be found under Labor Law § 200 where the responsible party had the authority to supervise or control the performance of the work. In other words, a contractor or owner can be held liable under this statutory provision for a worksite injury, where it can be shown that the contractor or owner had actual, specific authority to dictate how the work was performed at the construction site. In addition, an injured construction worker can recover where it can be demonstrated that the owner or contractor either created the dangerous condition that led to construction worker’s accident, or that the owner or contractor knew – or in the reasonable exercise of diligence should have known – about the dangerous condition, but failed to timely remedy the situation.

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