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Understanding New York Scaffold Law

Working construction is a risky business. A lot can go wrong while workers are scaling tall buildings, hoisting heavy materials and preparing tools for use at high elevations. That is why the New York Scaffold Law imposes 100 percent liability on general contractors or subcontractors who allow workers to perform these dangerous tasks without the proper safety equipment.

The New York Scaffold Law makes companies responsible for ensuring workers take every precaution — from building railings to securing harnesses — to make sure that they are secure while performing dangerous work activities at high elevations. Simply stated, if a worker falls from a height, the onus is on the contractor to prove that the job site was safe.

Contractors move for reform

A new battle to reform this law is unfolding in Albany. The current law states that even a worker who is partially at fault in the events leading up to an accident is entitled to compensation for the injuries he or she sustains. Contractors believe that the application of the law permitting 100 percent liability for falls is fraught with cases of serious abuse, such as when a worker fails to use the lift or safety equipment provided. They argue:

  • Contractors are left with very little opportunity to defend themselves after a serious fall from a ladder or scaffold.
  • The cost of general liability insurance is borderline unaffordable because injuries resulting from a fall from heights are often among the most serious.
  • The cost of doing business requires construction company owners to place higher bids and taxpayers and developers to pay higher premiums to get buildings built.
  • Reducing the cost of the Scaffold Law could increase economic and urban development by contractors who can then afford to reenter the market.

What’s on the horizon

As of June 19, 2013, this reform bill has been benched, but workers can expect contractors and subcontractors to continue to fight back against this protective law for injured construction site workers. If you have been injured by a fall, contact experienced scaffold law attorneys for help with your case.

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