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Scaffolding Law Reform in New York Attempted Again

It seems like every year tort reform advocates and some state lawmakers in New York try to pass legislation that would change the state's scaffold law. Unfortunately, 2012 is turning out to be no different.

A bill has been proposed that would change the protections provided to workers under the state's scaffold law, Labor Law Section 240(1). Under the current scaffold law, property owners and employers in New York bear absolute liability when construction workers are injured in accidents that involve any heights, such as scaffold, ladder and even stairway accidents.

New York's scaffold law, Labor Law Section 240(1), requires contractors and property owners to provide workers with equipment to prevent falls and injuries caused by falling objects, including scaffolding, ropes, ladders and pulleys. Employers are held strictly liable for any violation of the law.

Proposed Change to Labor Law Section 240(1)

The new bill proposes to change this by also allowing the injured workers to be held at-fault for violations of the scaffold law. Essentially the absolute liability standard would be replaced with a negligence standard that would divide liability proportionately among at-fault parties. Basically, this means that an injured worker's conduct could be factored into determining liability for the cause of the accident. True responsibility for safety would thereby be shifted to the worker.

The reality is that changing the law would eliminate the legal safety protections provided for construction workers in New York. The New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) pointed out that until local governments start adequately protecting the safety of workers, laws like Labor Law Section 240(1) are essential to workplace safety.

The NYSTLA argues that, as one of the most effective and important workplace safety statues in the nation, the law has established "a long-standing public policy intended to protect workers." Changing it would allow for owners and construction site contractors to abuse the system, not taking the required steps to protect workers in all circumstances and possibly even forcing workers into unsafe situations or risk losing their jobs.

Reforms to the scaffold law continue to be proposed year after year, despite the fact that related workplace injuries and deaths continue to grow. Statistics compiled from the Department of Labor show that over 37 workplace deaths were reported in New York state in 2010. As long as construction workers continue to be injured, it is essential that workplace safety laws remain in place.

If you have been injured in a scaffolding or work-related accident in New York, contact an experienced workplace accident attorney to explore your legal options.

Contact trolman, glaser & lichtman, PC

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