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New York's landmark Scaffold Law under fire

Construction industry business owners, lobbyists and spokespersons have been in recent weeks waging another campaign to end New York's Scaffold Law that helps prevent construction worker injuries.

A recent letter by the president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association to an upstate newspaper made a number of good points about this worker protection.

Perhaps the most important point made: the law provides an excellent incentive to maintain a safe work site. After all, construction work is dangerous. According to the federal government's Department of Labor, 35 percent of all construction fatalities are caused by falls.

The president of the attorneys group wrote: "The statute is based on a basic premise -- that those who control a construction site are best able to monitor and ensure worker safety. Under these laws, construction companies are simply required to provide appropriate safety equipment and training at work sites -- no more and, certainly, no less."

The law is also based on the premise that those who are responsible for worker injuries should bear the costs of medical care, physical therapy, lost wages and other damages, rather than the taxpayers or the injured workers themselves.

In many cases, negligent construction companies try to evade legal and financial responsibility for the damage their indifference to safety regulations causes. They would prefer that workers shoulder the costs of surgeries, rehab, etc., or if the worker doesn't have adequate insurance, then taxpayers could foot the bill via Medicaid.

Another excellent point made in the letter: New York's Scaffold Law makes the construction industry safer. Despite the incredible density of New York City, "New York has the nation's fifth lowest construction injury rate."

Why would get rid of a law that is not only effective in preventing construction injuries, but also lays the responsibility where it should be when injuries do occur?

Source: Syracuse.com, "Scaffold Law helps keep workers safe," May 2, 2012

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