Don’t Deform the Scaffold Law

A coalition of New York contractors is pushing to significantly reform one of the most important laws for construction worker safety: the Scaffold Law. Originally ratified in 1885, this law mandates employers to provide safety measures for workers that carry out their jobs above the ground (such as builders, roof repairmen, and so on). Failure to comply with the law, especially if the failure is responsible for the injury or death of a worker, can result in employer payments of serious court room settlements. There is no reason, however, to think that such a legal arrangement is too hard on employers. Workers have remarkably little control over their working conditions, and if employers are given the freedom to do as they please absent consequences, they are likely to cut costs by providing inadequate safety provisions. This is especially true in industries like construction, which rely heavily on temp work, in that employers do not offer health insurance to temp workers and thus do not risk seeing their premiums rise because of increased injury rates. In other words, construction employers have little incentive to protect employees from harm, which is compounded by the fact that injured and killed workers are easily replaced by temp agencies. To fully understand the falsehoods advanced by those attacking the Scaffold law, please see our resources page.

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