New York Labor Law §240, commonly called the “Scaffold Law,” provides critical safety protections for workers who perform some of the most dangerous work in construction. The law creates strict liability for general contractors, property owners and their agents when workers are injured while working at high elevations without proper safety equipment.
This provides an incentive for contractors and property owners to keep working conditions safe and provide adequate safety equipment to these vulnerable workers. Yet, the law is regularly criticized and called into question by contractors and insurers.
Critics call for Cuomo to repeal Labor Law §240
75 members of New York’s construction and business industries recently wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo calling for him to use the state budget process to get rid of the law. They argue that it places an undue financial burden for insurers and contractors, making it impossible for them to build (and provide construction jobs) in New York.
According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Empire State chapter, New York state has the highest general liability costs in the nation and some carriers refuse to write policies for New York contractors altogether – supposedly all due to the Scaffold Law. (However, if construction injuries to workers on job sites are actually on the rise, it would seem to underscore the need for greater legislative protections for workers – not less.)
Worker interests push back
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), a group of workers, healthy safety professionals, unions and other groups invested in workers’ safety, has spoken up in favor of the Scaffold Law. According to NYCOSH, the law simply requires that contractors, employers and property owners create safe working conditions. Contractors and businesses are only liable for workplace injuries and fatalities when they have put workers at risk by failing to provide proper protections.
While industry groups argue that the Scaffold Law is responsible for New York’s high insurance premiums, NYCOSH has suggested that insurance companies provide more transparency about their pricing and policies so the public can determine whether the law – or excessive profits by insurers – is the real root cause of those costs.
Workers deserve protections
New York’s construction workers put their lives on the line on a regular basis. They deserve protection – not only in the form of proper safety equipment as per the Scaffold Law, but also in the form of legal protections and a fair court system. If you or someone you love has been hurt while working on a construction site, it is important to discuss your options with a knowledgeable work injury attorney.