Last week, U.S. Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) introduce legislation that would pre-empt New York’s costly, outdated Scaffold Law that leaves property owners and contractors absolutely liable for certain construction site injuries.

The Scaffold Law assigns “absolute liability” for any gravity-related construction accident on the contractor and property owners, regardless of any negligence or fault of the injured worker. The law can make obtaining liability insurance prohibitively expensive, and actually leads to a higher injury rate on job sites. This law, which dates back to the 19th century and is the only one of kind still on the book in any state in the nation, adds millions of dollars in costs to New York State real estate projects.

Congressman Faso said:

“As people and businesses flee our state it is hard to fathom why New York State would continue to impose these unnecessary liability insurance costs on our citizens. New York is the only state that imposes this costly mandate which continues to incentivize people, businesses and jobs to flee our state. New York State is plagued with an old and decaying public infrastructure and a property tax burden and business costs which makes New York the single worst state in the nation in which to do business. The Scaffold Law also drives up insurance costs for homeowners, raising the cost of a new, single-family home by between $5000 and $10000. This antiquated law greatly increases the costs of all public construction projects and has greatly limited the number of liability insurance carriers even willing to write insurance policies in our state. This law doesn’t even promote a safer workplace environment for construction workers, as our state is no safer for workers than the 49 other states which don’t have this liability statute. We can create more construction jobs and fund additional projects in New York if we aren’t wasting taxpayer dollars.”

Unshackle Upstate shares the Congressman’s view that Scaffold Law repeal is necessary and long overdue. We continue to support state-level legislation that would amend the state Labor Law to put in place a fair and equitable contributory negligent standard for height-related workplace injuries to ensure that their behavior is factored in when a worker failed to use the safety equipment provided, disobeyed safety directions, was injured while engaged in a criminal act, or worked while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  But in the absence of state action on that bill, then we’re pleased to see Congressman Faso trying to make progress on the issue through federal action.