When New York’s Scaffold Law (also known as Labor Law 240/241) was first introduced in the late 19th century, it intended to help protect the construction workers who were climbing increasingly higher to build massive skyscrapers, much like how New York Workers Compensation was instated to protect all workers around the same time.


Today, however, this law has become a source of conflict between the state’s lawmakers and contractors for a couple of simple reasons: it is outdated and easily exploited by workers who see the opportunity for financial gain.


Instead of using typical sources for help after getting injured on the job, such as New York Workers Compensation, workers can easily sue for damages following an incident where they fell while working on a site, regardless of whether or not the workers themselves were engaging in negligent or reckless behavior or if some of the parties sued had no involvement in supervision at the site.


While New York Workers Compensation provides workers financial assistance to those who need it, it seems as though the Scaffold Law is too broad in today’s world. It provides you, as a contractor, with almost no chance of defense in the case of a lawsuit because the law is so biased toward the plaintiff.


The Scaffold Law currently costs New York taxpayers about $735 million dollars annually, and approximately $3 billion dollars per year total. By reforming this law, contractors and workers would both benefit in several ways, including:


  • General liability insurance costs in New York could decrease significantly
  • Reforming the law could potentially create over 27,000 new jobs in construction
  • Local governments could pay less for capital projects, regardless of whether the work is done directly or through private contractors.


With the number of actual injuries on the job decreasing, the number of lawsuits filed under the Scaffold Law should be doing the same. However, they are actually increasing. They also account for the largest percentage of lawsuit settlements in terms of the amount of money the plaintiff receives. All of these factors certainly raise the question of exploitation for financial gain.


Lawmakers need to step in and protect the contractors in addition to still maintaining a high level of protection for the employees who are taking on these high-risk jobs. In these times, it’s important to close all the loopholes to prevent unreasonable lawsuits. While the time for reform of this law passed long ago, it’s certainly not too late to do something about it.


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