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Will lawmakers change New York's Scaffolding Law this year?

Given that New York has one of the toughest scaffolding laws in the country, it is no surprise that many business associations, property owners and large contractors are constantly trying to get this law amended or eliminated, particularly since it has the potential to impact their bottom line. This year, however, they might get their wish as lawmakers recently introduced legislation that will, if passed, change this century-old law.

Sadly, while many property owners may welcome changes to New York's Scaffolding Law -- otherwise known as New York Labor Law §240 -- you can bet that these proposed amendments will not necessarily be good news for the people this statute is meant to protect: construction workers.

Current Scaffolding Law vs. Proposed Scaffolding Law

Under New York's current Scaffolding Law, all general contractors and property owners are required to provide construction workers with properly installed safety equipment -- including scaffolding -- when they are building, demolishing, repairing or simply painting a building. Because of this law, construction workers injured in a work-related fall may be able to hold the general contractor or property owner liable. In many cases, it may be their best avenue of legal recourse.

However, it is important to note that there are certain property owners that are exempt from New York's existing Scaffolding law, including owners of one- and two-family dwellings who "contract for but do not direct or control the work." According to New York case law, the idea behind these exceptions is to protect property owners who may lack business sophistication and are therefore unaware of the need to obtain insurance to cover the liability imposed by the statute.

But, if the recently proposed bill (AB 1602) is passed, there will be more exceptions to this law, including property owners of multiple dwellings, who may not share the same "lack of sophistication" problem as their single-dwelling counterparts.

While it is not clear what this amendment hopes to achieve, if it becomes law, one thing is certain: many injured construction workers will have fewer legal options available since fewer construction projects will fall under the protection New York's Scaffolding Law.

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