New York Lawmakers to Revisit Scaffold Law

New York lawmakers are revisiting the state’s century-old scaffolding law that requires construction companies to cover the full cost of all workplace injuries. According to The New York Daily News, the recent conversation about reforming New York’s construction safety laws comes at the behest of the Trump administration and the construction industry, which are looking for ways to reduce the price of construction projects in New York. As the only state in the country with the so-called “Scaffolding Law,” critics of the law say it increases the cost of construction and believe the time to reform the laws and join the rest of the country have arrived.

According to the construction industry owners, the scaffolding law significantly increases the cost of constructing a building in the state. In some circumstances, the law pushes costs so high that entire construction projects are canceled. As evidence of these claims, critics of the law point to a 2013 study from SUNY Rockefeller Institute which determined the law costs private businesses approximately $1.5 billion and taxpayers almost $800 million for public projects each year. The Trump administration told Gov. Cuomo in a recent meeting that the law would make the Gateway Project, a vital infrastructure project in the Northeast, almost $300 million more expensive. With the citywide building boom driving up wages for construction workers coupled with the increased price of construction materials caused by President Trump’s tariffs, the federal government is looking for ways to lower the price of the Gateway Project.

Advocates of the law, which include construction unions and legal advocacy groups, argue that the costs of the law are overblown, and the law is necessary to hold construction companies responsible. With the increased rate of construction injuries and fatalities, safety advocates believe the industry should be more regulated, not less.

Speaking to the daily newspaper, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said, “New York’s scaffold safety law has made construction sites safer and has held employers accountable. Those who are advocating for its repeal should not be risking the lives of the men and women who make up the construction industry in the name of profit.”  Gov. Cuomo appears to agree and said his administration has no plans to pursue a change to the century-old construction safety law.

We have seen firsthand the impact of unsafe work environments.  Clients of our have been maimed and lost their lives due to unsafe practices.  The legislature should be careful not to disturb a law that promotes the safety of its citizens.