New York Labor Law Section 240 or Scaffold Law was enacted more than 100 years ago to protect construction workers from elevated work related accidents. It holds general contractors, owners and others liable if unsafe conditions at the job site lead to a worker’s injury or death (to learn more about NY Labor Law 240 see recent presentation by NY Construction Accident Attorney Anthony Gair)
The construction industry has been trying to repeal and amend this law since it was created and the last attack came with a report entitled “The Costs of Labor Law 240 on New York’s economy and Public Infrastructure” and published by the The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The report uses questionable statistic methodologies to blame The Scaffold Law for creating more accidents and more injuries.
The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) discovered that the report was actually commissioned by the New York Civil Justice Institute, a front group that was specifically created for this purpose by the Lawsuits Reform Alliance of New York who paid $82,800 for it. The Lawsuits Reform Alliance of New York is well known for lobbying against laws protecting plaintiffs in favor of the construction industry and other corporate interests. The CPD and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) just published a paper entitled “Fatally Flawed: Why the Rockefeller Institute’s Scaffold Law Report Doesn’t add up”
Professor Richard W. Hurd, Professor and Associate Dean at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations was also quick to denounce the Rockfeller Institute report. In an article in the Insurance Journal Hurd says the Rockfeller Institute report “misuses sophisticated statistical techniques and produces results that are inaccurate”. In his opinion, “they erred particularly in the equations that serve as a foundation for the estimate of increased injuries supposedly caused by the Scaffold Law. Even the basic hypothesis may be flawed; it proposes that liability for injuries associated with the law ‘blunts employer incentives to invest in worker safety.’ This is counter intuitive. If employers are financially liable for injury and death, would they not be more likely to invest in safety? “
Every year in NYC hundreds of construction workers suffer serious personal injury and several of them die on the job. In 2013, all construction fatalities in NYC involved construction workers dying due to lack of adequate fall protection. This month only, two constructions workers fell to their death in Midtown Manhattan and the Department of Building’s investigations established that workers were not properly protected against a fall.
Fall is the leading cause of death in the construction industry and construction workers need to be protected. New York, Labor Law section 240 is here for that and safety should not be scarificed for profits.