New York Labor Law §240 is probably the most controversial law in the New York construction industry.  Many argue that it’s antiquated and stunts the growth of small business and schools due to high insurance costs to cover personal injury claims.  Unfortunately, however, construction sites remain extremely dangerous places thereby necessitating coverage for the injuries that so many workers endure.

According to OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), out of approximately 3,929 worker fatalities in private industry in 2013, 796 (20.3%) were in construction.  The leading cause of death was falls, accounting for 294 out of 796 total deaths (36.9%).

Recently, a 50-year-old construction worker lost his life when he fell six stories at a Brighton Beach worksite, calling the law back into question.  The rational is that it provides incentives to keep work conditions safe by placing potential liability on the project owner and general contractor – the parties that are best situated to implement safety-monitoring systems.

The reason that the law is necessary is that construction workers are in one of the nation’s most dangerous industries.  More specifically, the law protects at-risk non-union laborers who often do not have access to quality safety resources.  Furthermore, the law protects immigrant workers who are also at-risk due to language barriers.  Another positive effect of the law is that construction workers don’t have to hesitate to ask for safety equipment for fear of losing their jobs.

Therefore, while there are certainly unintended negative consequences of New York Labor Law §240, it is necessary because it protects the lives of construction workers who put them at-risk them on a daily basis.  It also adequately punishes those who neglect to meet adequate safety standards by compensating the unfortunate workers who are hurt on the job.