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Federal lawmakers seek to undo New York's Scaffolding Law

New York's 133-year-old Scaffolding Law is once again being attacked -- although this time by federal lawmakers.

A recent vote by the House Judiciary Committee helped House Bill 3808, otherwise known as the "Infrastructure Expansion Act," clear its first significant hurdle. This bill, if passed, would essentially deny any federal funding to construction projects that use New York's Scaffolding Law. Now that this bill has passed the House committee, it will go to the House floor for a vote.

As you can imagine, there are many who are not particularly pleased with this legislation. This includes many construction safety advocates as well as several New York State lawmakers, some of whom believe this is simply an attempt by Congress to make an end-run around New York's legislative process.

Why is the Scaffolding Law important

New York's Scaffolding Law -- currently known as New York Labor Law §240 -- was originally enacted in the 1880s to protect those working at great heights while erecting skyscrapers.

Under the existing version of the 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 falls  may be able to hold the general contractor or property owner liable for their injuries. For many, this is the best legal option following a serious construction-related fall.

However, HB 3808, which was introduced by Rep. John Faso, would end federal funding to projects that use this law. Some feel this legislation would, if passed, needlessly put workers at greater risk. In addition, some believe this is an issue that should be handled by New York lawmakers, not the United States Congress.

Ultimately, we will just have to wait and see what the U.S. House of Representatives thinks.

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