Debate Continues Regarding New York’s Scaffold Safety Law

Debate Continues Regarding New York’s Scaffold Safety Law

New York State’s Scaffold Safety Law dates back to the 19th Century, but debate still rages about whether its tough liability standard should be weakened. The law requires property owners, developers and contractors to provide certain minimum protections for workers involved in the building, repair, demolition or maintenance of the building. While opponents of the law believe it imposes unnecessary costs, supporters hail it as a fair and vital measure, noting persistent safety violations. In 2018, scaffold problems were the third most common citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Though the need for some sort of oversight exists, interested parties continue to argue over where the line should be drawn. Among the points of contention are these:

  • The “absolute liability” question — Opponents of the law say it imposes “absolute liability,” objecting to the idea that the victim’s negligence cannot be taken into account as a cause of the accident. However, the law in fact requires that a safety violation be shown to justify an award of damages against a non-employer defendant.
  • Insurance costs — When someone makes an argument against the existing law, they almost always mention its effect on insurance premium rates. Some claim that the additional costs put New York at a competitive disadvantage compared to other states. However, insurance carriers have not revealed what effect, if any, the scaffold law truly has on premiums.
  • What is proper protection? — The statutory language suggests many different types of protections against “gravity-related accidents,” such as scaffolding, slings, blocks and braces. Because each site is unique, pinpointing whether proper steps were taken often requires detailed evidence, especially if there is no apparent cause for the malfunction.

Determining who is responsible for a harmful scaffold accident can be a complex process involving many potentially liable parties. When potential defendants point fingers at each other, you want to have a knowledgeable attorney who is familiar with scaffold accident issues and knows how to collect full compensation from the businesses and individuals at fault.

The lawyers at Barasch & McGarry represent construction workers throughout the New York City area who have been injured due to a scaffold failure or some other type of incident. To make an appointment for a free initial consultation, please call 855.539.9189 or contact us online.

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