Letter to the Editor: State’s Scaffold Safety Law protects workers, families

A recent editorial by The Buffalo News editorial board irresponsibly echoed many of the same mischaracterizations and falsehoods that have been weaponized by insurers and the construction industry for years.

In truth, the Scaffold Safety Law is one of the few remaining safeguards protecting construction workers and their families today, at a time when real estate and construction are booming and workplace fatalities are on the rise.

To be clear, the Scaffold Safety Law only applies to incidents in which the contractor failed to provide adequate safety equipment to workers. If the contractor provides the required equipment, they cannot be held liable under the provision. That’s the law.

Recently, OSHA regulations have been undercut by limited resources and inadequate enforcement practices. Only a small percentage of construction worksites are actually inspected by government officials each year, allowing a large majority of unsafe construction sites to escape scrutiny.

As a result, the Scaffold Safety Law is one of the only mechanisms available to workers who wish to hold bad actors accountable for dangerous labor practices when tragic events occur. Given the record number of construction fatalities in the last few years, it’s crucial that we encourage workplace safety rather than provide cover for negligent contractors.

There are plenty of ways we can make New York more affordable, such as demanding greater transparency from insurers who work with the construction industry. In fact, legislation doing just that has been proposed by both Republicans and Democrats repeatedly over the last several years. But putting workers’ lives at greater risk by reducing accountability of those who control jobsites, solely to increase profits of big contractors and corporate insurers, must not be the solution.

Germain Harnden

Executive Director, WNY Council on Occupational Safety and Health


This letter was published on January 21, 2019 in the Buffalo News and can be found here.

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