The construction industry is one of the most dangerous employment arenas in America. Construction workers simply have a higher risk of injury and fatality due to the nature of the jobs they perform-particularly those who work with heavy machinery or on scaffolds.
In New York, for instance, many construction workers often perform necessary work on scaffolding. Walk around the streets of Manhattan on any given day and scaffolding can be seen on practically every block.
Fortunately, New York workers injured on the job from scaffolding falls or other types of injuries are protected under the state’s workers’ compensation laws if they sustain an injury while working. But, in the state of New York, construction workers also have additional protections under the Scaffold Safety Law.
New York Scaffold Safety Law
The New York Scaffold Safety Law dates back to the late 19th century. The law essentially stipulates that property owners or construction companies are responsible if workers sustain any “gravity-related” injury as a result of working on an unsafe construction site. Despite years of pushback, the law remains in effect today-and it has been a lifesaver for many.
A devastating story
Just ask one ironworker who fell from scaffolding several years ago. His story was recently profiled on Lohud, an online New York news journal.
The ironworker was working on top of a scaffold. He fell 15 feet, hit his head on a 4×4, and suffered a host of injuries including traumatic brain, spine, hip, and pelvis injuries. The reason was because his employer failed to provide the necessary safety harness. Today, he is unable to work because of his permanent injuries.
After 25 years on the job, “no level of skill could have protected me from [my] injury,” he reports.
And thanks to the Scaffold Safety Law, he was able to pursue legal recourse.
Efforts to repeal the law
Since its enactment, lawmakers have tried hard to repeal or amend the law. Opponents argue that the law increases the costs of construction projects. And, when it comes to public projects, they argue that such expenses are unfairly passed on to taxpayers.
But advocates say bottom lines do not outweigh the cost of a human life. Plus, they argue that the construction industry is extremely competitive today and companies will do what’s needed to decrease overhead expenses as much as possible, even if it’s at the expense of worker safety. Advocates of the New York Scaffold Safety Law say that it’s more important today than ever.
An amendment was recently introduced to change the law, but lawmakers failed to procure enough votes.