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Historic Scaffold Law that protects NY workers is facing reform

Falls continue to be the number one cause of injuries and fatalities for New York construction workers. Construction is by nature a hazardous line of work. Workers are exposed to various safety threats, however working from heights continues to result in more deaths and injuries than anything else in the trade.

In 1885 New York Legislature enacted provisions to protect employees who worked at heights, creating what would be the basis of the Scaffold Safety Law. The law is facing reform by opponents who claim the law increases construction costs and shifts liability to employers.

Protection for workers

Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, commonly known as the Scaffold Safety Law, is in place to protect construction workers by requiring employer to provide safety protections. The safety measure requires employers to provide proper safety training and equipment for workers or be held liable if the worker is injured on the job.

The current reform is hoping to shift safety responsibility to workers, but construction workers have little to no control over how they are required to perform the work, they are just there to complete manual labor as directed. Additionally, they do not supply their own safety devices or equipment.

Misreported statements building momentum

Opponents of the Scaffold Safety Law argue that it imposes automatic fault for employers when a worker is injured. However, contractors and owners are not automatically found at fault and liability is determined by the training and protections provided to workers. Owners and general contractors can avoid liability by simply complying with worksite safety laws.

A disposable workforce

Contributing to the problem of unsafe worksites is the view the workers are a replaceable commodity. Workers who voice concerns over the lack of safety equipment or training are replaced by unscrupulous employers in favor of workers who will put up with unsafe conditions. Failure to comply with a perilous workplace culture often results in unemployment.

As employers focus on speedy completion, often further incentivized by financial rewards for early completion, worker safety is jeopardized. Workers injured on jobsites where necessary safety equipment and training was not provided can seek financial compensation.

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