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Why New York City’s scaffold law is so important

In this blog, we frequently discuss the many dangers that construction workers in New York City face on a daily basis. Among the most serious and prevalent dangers posed to construction workers are those associated with working atop scaffolding structures. Due to the fact that the vast majority of New York City’s buildings are above two stories tall, scaffolding is frequently used by construction crews to carryout projects that require demolition, repair, erection, painting and cleaning.

Scaffolding is built using a series of metal poles and frames. Construction laws outline strict requirements that must be followed when erecting scaffolding which include mandatory training courses for both workers and those individuals who are tasked with erecting the scaffolding, the use of safety equipment and daily inspections of scaffolding materials.

Under New York City’s Scaffold Law, property owners and contractors assume “absolute liability for elevation-related injuries.” The law plays a critical role in protecting not only construction workers, but also members of the general public who could suffer injury or death if scaffolding materials collapsed or fell.

Not surprisingly, the city’s scaffold law is the subject of much controversy and contempt by property owners and construction employers who argue that they are often unfairly held accountable for the safety failures of incompetent subcontractors and individual workers. Additionally, opponents of the scaffold law contend they are unfairly stripped of their judicial rights to defend against claims of wrongdoing and negligence in court. However, proponents of the law, which include representatives from the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, insist that the scaffolding law plays a vital role in holding “employers responsible for any job-safety violations.”

Information from OSHA shows that safety and health violations are discovered at roughly 67 percent of inspected construction sites. This is proof that, for many construction employers, the fines imposed by OSHA are viewed merely as “the cost of doing business.” It’s imperative; therefore, that New York City’s scaffold law remains strong and continues to hold property owners and construction companies accountable for their disregard of safety.

Source:, “Confused About NY’s Scaffold Law? We’re Here to Help,” Marc Bussanich, May 26, 2015

Department of Buildings, “Supported Scaffolds,” Dec. 1, 2015, “Learn the Issue,” Dec. 1, 2015

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