For more than a century, New York has had Labor Law 240–aka the Scaffolding Law–on the books to protect the construction workers who risk their lives in the dangerous job of building and maintaining the city skyline while perched on scaffolding and ladders.
Basically, this law specifies that these construction jobs are so dangerous that the state provides special protection by enabling these workers to sue the owner of the property and the general contractor (as opposed to filing for worker’s compensation) for an injury or accident on the job. This right is to help ensure that property owners and contractors have a vested interest in making construction sites as safe as possible for these workers, and have an economic incentive to take all safety measures and not cut corners or put these workers in harm’s way.
This law is now being challenged by employers, property owners, insurance companies and contractors who argue that it has made insurance unaffordable and halted construction projects around the state. To this we say nonsense! This law has helped make construction sites around the city much safer. There is no evidence that insurance rates are any higher today due to this law, which has been on the books since 1885. In fact, if the insurance companies would make their books public, then this claim could be proven or disproven. But of course they refuse.
The reality is that many construction workers are vulnerable to work site abuse. These workers risk their lives to help the city build and grow, and they need to be protected from employers who want to cut corners and save time at the risk of their workers.
Opponents of the law also argue that New York’s law is the only one of its kind in the country. But New York City is also a unique city, with a skyline that rises to 104 stories (1,776 feet) as home to the tallest building in the United States and with nearly 100 buildings that are taller than 600 feet.
Others argue that businesses must now pay millions for any accident on a scaffold, but the truth is liability standards still require workers to prove that the work site was unsafe. Insurance and special interest groups that claim that workers who are at fault can collect large settlements are often exaggerated or simply untrue. And they aren’t suffering. Indeed developers, owners and construction companies have made billions on New York’s rich real estate landscape.
At Goldstein and Bashner, we fully support the construction workers who put their lives at risk every day and deserve to have every safety measure taken and be fully compensated if they are injured on the job. We refuse to buy in to the greed and lies of the insurance companies and property owners.