Since the Court of Appeals decided that Labor Law § 240 covered non-construction, routine cleaning in Broggy v. Rockefeller Group, Inc., the lower appellate courts have grappled with defining covered “cleaning” under the statute. In Wicks v. Trigen Syracuse Energy Corp., the plaintiff was working at a facility that processed shredded paper as an alternative fuel source. Several times a day, dust particles from the facility would get clogged in one of the machines and the plaintiff would climb a ladder, use a broom and push out the dust particles to be burned with the other paper as fuel. On one of those occasions, the plaintiff fell from the ladder. The court concluded that because the dust particles pushed out were ultimately also used as fuel, they could not be considered dirt or extraneous material. In addition, because the plaintiff’s work was integral to the facility’s function, the court ultimately found that the plaintiff was not cleaning, instead he was maintaining the system operation. Therefore, the court held that the plaintiff was not engaged in cleaning within the meaning of Labor Law § 240.
Thanks to Cheryl Fuchs for her contribution to this post.