Section 200, 240, & 241 of the current NYS Labor Law were originally designed to merely codify common-law duty of owners and general contractors to provide safe place for workers at construction sites to protect workers engaged in construction activities involving heights by mandating the use of protective equipment and charging the responsibility for provision of such equipment to the owner of the site. The duties of responsibility imposed under the current statute are non-delegable and an owner or general contractor cannot escape liability by delegating the responsibility. The problem with this antiquated law is that EVERYONE GETS SUED!! The apparent intention of the NYS legislature was to place ultimate responsibility for worker injury on those who are in best position to insure safety of work place. However, typically a general contractor and owner are vicariously liable under Section 241 without regard to their own fault.
The antiquated Sections 240 & 241 of the Scaffold Law exposes property owners and contractors to unfair strict liability, which makes insurance prohibitively expensive and ultimately drives up the cost of construction in New York State. Translation is that taxpayers bear the brunt of the ultimate cost of construction project costs. Our state leaders need to establish a more sensible and balanced negligence-based standard that would drive down the cost of insurance, create more jobs, and improve the business climate in New York State. A recent study for the Thruway Authority’s Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project estimates the cost impact of this law on the Tappan Zee project alone to be over $100,000,000. Statewide, the cost of this outdated law on public projects is staggering. However, the powerful trial lawyer lobby benefits tremendously from cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the current Scaffold Law.
Labor law 240/241 holds contractors and property owners absolutely liable for injuries, even if they were not at fault. Initially established in 1885, the Scaffold Law predates OSHA and Worker’s Compensation. Since then, every other state in the nation that had a version of the Scaffold Law has repealed it – every state EXCEPT New York. The last state to repeal the Scaffold Law, Illinois in 1995, saw a significant increase in jobs and a substantial reduction in workplace fatalities. The benefits of reforming the Scaffold Law would be felt statewide. Not only would our public projects benefit, but New York businesses would spend far less on insurance, freeing up those dollars for new jobs and investment. Further, our municipalities would see significant savings to local construction and repair projects, at a time when they need it most. Please consider working with Governor Cuomo, state and local leaders, and members of the business community to reform this antiquated law. New York cannot afford to be the only state in the nation with this Scaffold Law on the books. A balanced reform would ensure worker safety and reduce taxpayer costs.