Some New York lawmakers and other tort reform advocates wish to reform the state's scaffolding laws, reducing the liability of contractors and property owners and leaving injured employees at risk.
Current New York Scaffolding Law
New York is the only state in the nation that holds contractors and property owners absolutely liable for any worker injury sustained from a fall or a falling object, otherwise known as a fall injury. This type of liability is known as "strict liability."
The law also requires employers to take all reasonable action to prevent worker injury, including providing proper equipment like scaffolding pulleys, ropes and ladders.
Proposed Reforms to Scaffolding Law
Reforms to the state's 130 year-old scaffolding law have been introduced in a Senate by Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma. Gallivan argues that reforms are needed to reduce insurance and other costs for business owners that Gallivan and his supporters believe will improve job growth. Often, municipalities and school districts are the defendants in lawsuits where the scaffolding law applies, and Gallivan claims that making reforms to the law would save taxpayer dollars.
Gallivan's reforms would eliminate absolute liability in cases where employee negligence contributed to the incident. Examples of employee negligence include drug or alcohol use at the time of the scaffolding accident, failing to use appropriate equipment and failing to comply with safety instructions or training. Gallivan and his supporters believe these reforms would allow contractors and property owners to build a case in their defense, therefore balancing the playing field during a lawsuit.
Problems with Scaffolding Law Reforms
Unfortunately, Gallivan's scaffolding law reforms will put injured workers at risk. In the current economy, where contractors and property owners are encouraged to reduce costs by completing jobs cheaply and quickly, construction workers are often at the whim of employers who cut safety corners to meet deadlines and budgets. Reducing the liability in the scaffolding law would decrease the options workers have for appropriate compensation for their injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a fall or falling object while working at a construction site, please contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help you understand the liability issues that apply in your case and win the awards to which you may be entitled.