A construction industry effort to eliminate New York’s century-old Scaffold Law is getting push-back from a new coalition of pro-Scaffold advocates which says it’s needed to protect the state’s construction workers.

The Scaffold Safety Coalition says it is committed to preserving the law, calling it a time-tested safety measure that has saved countless lives.

The coalition accuses industry lobbyists of trying to “squirm out of their responsibility to their workers” by pushing for changes to the law.

Industry groups say the law drives up costs and makes construction companies and property owners liable for scaffold-related injuries even if the worker is at fault.

“The bottom line is that if projects don’t have safety deficiencies on work at heights, those responsible for projects won’t have cases brought against them. The obvious answer is to improve safety and prevent accidents, but the campaign against the Scaffold Safety Law isn’t saying anything about this, which speaks volumes about what’s really going on.”
–Gary La Barbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York

The coalition counters that all that owners and general contractors have to do to avoid liability is comply with worksite safety laws and provide workers with the necessary mandated safety equipment and training. “If they do what they are legally required to, they will not be held responsible for accidents that occur.”

Construction is one of the nation’s most hazardous occupations. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls from an elevation account for one-third of construction fatalities. There were 101 construction deaths in New York from 2009-11. Of those due to falls, 60% of the victims were Latino and/or immigrant workers.

“Too many contractors, especially in the ‘underground’ construction industry, still take safety shortcuts – usually smaller contractors whose job sites often lack required guardrails, safety harnesses and properly anchored scaffolds,” according to the coalition’s website. “Many rely heavily on minority and immigrant workers—who are often disproportionately injured or killed in construction falls,” says the coalition

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