The state of New York has some of the toughest scaffold laws in the country, which New York's Trial Lawyer Association believes contributes to the state's incredibly low construction worker fatality rate. Business associations that represent construction companies, however, want to reform the law, citing it as unfair.
These business groups claim that the 100-year-old law in its current state holds general contractors and the owners of properties on which construction occurs liable for virtually all workplace injuries and scaffolding accident injuries on construction sites. These groups initially sought to repeal the law, but have modified their efforts to push for reforms instead.
One such proposed reform would be to hold workers liable for all injuries that occur as a result of their own intoxication, violation of safety standards or criminal activity. Other reform advocates believe making changes to the law would increase job growth.
However, such reforms have little or no support in either the Assembly or the Senate. Some opponents even claim that the real reason businesses seek to reform the law is to avoid responsibility for workplace safety and worker injury.
New York's Scaffold Law
As it stands now, the scaffold law, known as Labor Law 240, holds "all contractors and owners and their agents" responsible for providing safe, secure scaffolding for their employees to conduct their work, though the law exempts architects, professional engineers and one or two family homeowners who do not control the work from liability. The law states that scaffolding must be secured to the building so it does not sway, must be able to hold more than four times the maximum weight load of the workers and, if more than 20 feet off the ground, scaffolding must have guard rails at least 34 inches tall bolted to it.
New York's scaffold laws are intended to protect construction workers, a group of workers who face a workplace fatality rate higher than American workers in other occupations. Without it, injured construction workers may not receive the monetary award they deserve, including daily expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has been injured in a scaffolding accident, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to be advised of you rights and options.