In a decision that was handed down August 14, New York's Appellate Division, First Department (which covers appeals from New York State's courts in New York and Bronx Counties) held that a 12" height differential was insufficient to trigger NY Labor Law 240(1) liability.
Interestingly, although the appellate panel was split on other issues related to whether the defendants in this particular case were subject to liability under the general negligence principles of Labor Law 200, there does not appear to be any significant argument over whether a 12" height differential between a platform and the rest of the work area would be sufficient to impose liability under New York Labor Law 240(1), which is also commonly referred to as the "Worker Safety Statute," or the "Scaffold Law," is most often applied in the context of elevation-related hazards at a worksite. (For additional information on this topic, please see "What Type of Construction Risks Are Protected By NY Labor Law 240(1)?")
In that regard, the majority of the appellate court articulated this rule as follows:
"As for the claims against [the defendants] under Labor Law § 240(1), often called the scaffold law, [plaintiff's] accident could not give rise to liability under that statute because he was at most 12 inches above the floor and was not exposed to an elevation-related risk requiring protective safety equipment (see e.g. Toefer v Long Is. R.R., 4 NY3d 399  [fall from floor of a flatbed truck to ground four-to-five feet below did not trigger scaffold law coverage because the use of statute's enumerated safety devices are normally associated with more dangerous activity]; Lombardo v Park Tower Mgt. Ltd., 76 AD3d 497, 498  [no scaffold law claim where a staircase step, raised 18 inches above the floor, broke and caused the plaintiff to fall]; Torkel v NYU Hosps. Ctr., 63 AD3d 587, 590  [ramp whose bottom rested on the street and whose top rested on the adjacent sidewalk curb, with height differential of at most 12 to 18 inches, did not expose the plaintiff to type of hazard that the scaffold law contemplates]; Skudlarek v Bethlehem Steel Corp., 251 AD2d 974, 975  [dismissing scaffold law claim by a plaintiff who fell from 10- to 12-inch high pallet onto floor])."