Construction workers in New York are protected by the state's Scaffolding Law -- otherwise known as New York Labor Law §240. Specifically, this law holds property owners and contractors liable for worker injuries when they fail to provide proper safety equipment, including properly installed scaffolding.
Sadly, despite safety laws like this one, many workers are still injured, or even killed, in construction-related accidents every year. In fact, according to a report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), 25 New York City construction workers suffered fatal work injuries in 2015 alone -- many of which in fall-related incidents.
So given the dangers associated with construction, why does it seem like every year various business groups are pushing for the repeal or modification of New York's Scaffolding Law? Well, the short answer is because they claim it increases their cost of doing business through higher insurance rates. However, even if that is true, the fact remains that there are several more important reasons why New York needs to keep its Scaffolding Law, including:
- It provides legal recourse for injured construction workers: For many injured construction workers, New York's Scaffolding law provides the best, if not only, avenue of legal recourse. Without it, these innocent victims may be left with few options for seeking justice following fall-related construction accidents.
- It provides an incentive to keep New York worksites safe: Without the Scaffolding Law, there would certainly be less incentive for contractors and property owners to keep worksites safe, especially when you consider the current shortage of inspectors. Also, even if the worksite is inspected, OSHA fines may be too small to impact long-term work practices.
- It protects all workers, including undocumented workers: According to the NYCOSH report mentioned above, 57 percent of all construction workers killed in falls during 2015 were Latino, even though they only comprised 30 percent of the workforce -- meaning they are one of the most vulnerable group of workers. Fortunately, however, the Scaffolding Law provides legal recourse for all workers of every race and nationality, regardless of citizenship status.
Quite simply, without New York's Scaffolding law, an already dangerous profession would become even more dangerous. New York construction workers should not have to suffer -- or die -- simply because companies are more concerned with their bottom line than worker safety.