On Sunday, several New Yorkers were injured after a scaffolding collapse in lower Manhattan. Fortunately, there were dozens of people nearby that pitched in to help free those trapped under the debris. The FDNY reports that all five of those injured were transported to Bellevue — although many were surprised that there were not more people injured.
According to a report by the New York Post, FDNY Deputy Chief Joseph Lonino said the accident occurred at 11:40 a.m. after the wind blew over a shed that was holding up the scaffolding. Lonino said that exterior panels of plywood paneling on the scaffolding acted as sails in the high winds, which eventually blew the shed over.
However, the fact that the scaffolding wasn’t strong enough to hold up to city winds didn’t go over too well with some. The husband of one of the victims told the Daily News, “I’m flipping out, I’m upset, man. [My wife] is trying to take it lightly, like she said ‘It was kind of windy.’ I told her these things are supposed be built strong.”
City Councilman Ben Kallos also told CBS News, “The scaffolding is supposed to protect us from buildings, but what’s going to protect us from the scaffolding?” Kallos claims that some scaffolding stays in place for years on end, and that it can deteriorate over time.
Is this really the time to be making our scaffolding laws weaker?
The accident comes at a time when several groups are continuing their calls for the repeal of New York’s Scaffolding Law, which is the provision that requires general contractors and property owners to provide property installed safety equipment — including scaffolding — when a building is being constructed, demolished, repaired or simply painted. Because of this law, contractors and property owners may be liable when a worker suffers a fall-related injury.
While opponents of the Scaffolding Law claim it costs too much money, many believe contractors and property owners will have even less interest in making sure scaffolding is safe if the law is eliminated. After all, there is less motivation to ensure safety if you don’t have to worry about being legally and financially liable for worker-related scaffolding injuries.
Fortunately, current law still says that those responsible for scaffolding (i.e. property owners and general contractors) need to make sure it is erected properly and securely — and make sure it never deteriorates to the point in which workers are put in danger. If they fail in this duty, the lives of both workers and pedestrians are put at risk, as the most recent scaffolding collapse in Manhattan illustrates all too well.