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No changes to New York scaffold law

Earlier this month we wrote a post about the two workers who were rescued from the Hearst Tower in New York, when the scaffold upon which they were standing collapsed. As the workers completed routine maintenance work, the men were left hanging by their safety lines, approximately 450 feet above the ground. The workers were eventually recovered after rescuers broke a window. Perhaps surprising to some, neither was hurt in the ordeal.

The myriad of tall buildings in New York City means that there are many individuals whose job it is to maintain the structures. This often necessitates the use of scaffolding. Now, after this latest accident, a report recently released sheds light on the role a labor law has in keeping workers in these types of occupations, safe. Under Section 240(1), workers must be given equipment designed to keep, among other things, scaffolding from falling.

The state of New York is ahead of others in the nation when it comes to how employers who do not follow the law are treated. It is currently the only state to impose strict liability in situations where employers do not comply. This is important because it likely has an effect on the safety measures employers choose to take. Recently, certain state legislators attempted to replace the strict liability standard with a comparative negligence standard. Those opposed to the measure feared that it would result in more employers choosing to operate in a manner that does not take into account worker safety leading to more construction worker injuries.

The bill has been introduced annually over the course of the past few years. Thus far, it has met with little success. It appears that the 128-year-old law will remain intact this year as well.

Source: New York Daily News, “EXCLUSIVE: Sheldon Silver kills proposed changes to city’s Scaffold Law,” Greg B. Smith, June 19, 2013

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