New York contractors face a lot of debate and concerns when it comes to Labor Law §240, better known as the NY Scaffold Law. This statute places complete liability of worker injuries on construction company owners and general contractors, no matter who is at fault for the injury.
History of the Scaffold Statute
The original law concerning worker protection from which this statute is derived comes from 1885, when the first skyscrapers were being built in the city. Labor Law §240 protects workers from injuries occurring from high elevations during construction, repairs or demolition.
Many New York lawsuits originate from alleged violations of the Scaffold Law. Its goals were mainly to shift burden of safety from workers themselves and rest it on the contractor, who government considers best able to monitor workplace safety.
According to this law, business owners working in the construction industry have a duty to protect employees from such events as falling objects striking them from above while they are on the job.
Supporters of the law believe that it protects for a variety of reasons:
1) The construction industry is particularly dangerous especially for high elevation projects.
2) Non-union workers may not have access to appropriate safety equipment or training.
3) Immigrant workers with language barriers may not be able to understand safety requirements and their right for safe working conditions
4) Workers have a right to request protective equipment & procedures without fear they will be retaliated against or fired.
Opponents of the Scaffold Law in New York are not opposed to workplace safety. Instead, their view is that the law ignores employees as a contributing factor in workplace injuries. In other states, potential liability for damages decreases in direct proportion to how much the worker contributed to the injury.
Those opposed to the law seek reform to modernize it so that business owners are not held liable for injuries outside of their control. Additionally, workers are able to receive monetary compensation under the Scaffold Law that is much higher than worker’s compensation benefits allow.
This, in turn, increases the insurance coverage and costs that NY contractors must deal with in order to protect themselves from liability. Expensive insurance premiums potentially harm economic growth and subsequently reduce the ability for new projects.
Many contractors and real estate companies want change, but consensus seems to be that high insurance expenses hurt everyone.
Have you been directly affected by the Scaffold law? Are your overall costs increased because of the additional coverage required to protect yourself from liability? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you’re in need of contractor coverage or would like a quote on your existing policy, give us a call to learn more about our affordable workers comp for contractors.