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Scaffold Law: Why Its Repeal is Being Offered as a Solution to Improve Subways

Scaffold Law: Why Its Repeal is Being Offered as a Solution to Improve Subways

The state of New York has had problems with crumbling infrastructure in recent years, with roads, tunnels, bridges and pipelines all in bad need of repair and revamping. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated that 60 percent of the state’s roads and about 6,000 of its bridges are in need of repair. Few locations are a bigger testament to this need than Penn Station.

However, there are many legal and financial barriers in place that make it difficult to make these necessary infrastructure upgrades. New York is currently the most expensive place on earth for new construction projects—and some say that is due in large part to its so-called “scaffold law.”

Current scaffold laws make contractors and property owners (such as cities, public agencies and organizations) liable for claims filed for gravity-related construction injuries, such as falling object injuries or falls from heights. This is the case even if the owner or contractor had nothing to do with the accident in questions. Ultimately, this drives up the prices of insurance and the costs of construction in New York, which can make it impossible to get even the most necessary infrastructure projects done.

The potential effects of repealing the scaffold law

Proponents of repealing scaffolding laws, including the New York School Boards Association, estimate the law wastes approximately $200 million in excess costs on school construction upstate, which, according to the New York City School Construction Authority, would be equal to 75 major renovations.

Researchers have also determined that the Second Avenue Subway project was the most expensive subway project in history. All of this is likely due to the scaffold law forcing insurers out of the market, or causing rate hikes to what are already the highest rates in the country.

The law was initially enacted with good intentions in the 1880s as a means of protecting workers who were on construction crews for the very first skyscrapers in New York. This was long before a workers’ compensation system existed.

Today, however, the law does little to increase safety standards for workers. In fact, even contractors that have poor safety records or do not pay much attention to safety at all are treated the same under the law as contractors who enforce high-quality safety programs. Research by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine supports the conclusion that the law increases fatal and nonfatal construction accidents in the city.

Public officials have begun to highlight these issues as the state’s infrastructure needs grow even more glaringly obvious. Removing the scaffold law could be the best means of freeing up the cash needed to make these numerous costly repairs.

For further information on how scaffold laws could affect your personal injury claim, contact a knowledgeable New York construction injury lawyer with the Law Office of Evan W. Kohn.

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