Property owners and construction contractors feeling the financial stress of New York State’s Scaffold Law may have some relief soon. New legislation introduced by Congressman John Faso would offset the state’s strict liability standard and the resulting costs for construction. Called the Infrastructure Expansion Act, the new law would create a liability standard of comparative negligence for construction projects receiving federal funding. Multiple organizations in the construction industry have already expressed support for the proposal.
The Scaffold Law Debate
The Scaffold Law, more officially known as Labor Law 240, imposes absolute liability on property owners and contractors when a worker falls on a construction site. This means that even when the worker’s own negligence contributed significantly to the incident, the contractor or property owner takes on full liability for injuries.
New York is the only state with an absolute liability law like this, and many have criticized it for placing an unfair burden on the construction industry and driving business and jobs out of the state.
According to Congressman John Faso’s website, the Scaffold Law is responsible for increasing construction costs in New York by 7 percent. The law results in high liability insurance costs and may limit the projects companies are able to take on as a result. Taxpayers also feel the financial burden of the strict liability law, and homeowners also have to pay more as a result.
According to Faso, “This law doesn’t even promote a safe 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.”
Some evidence suggests that the Scaffold Law doesn’t merely fail to create a safer environment – it may do the opposite. A fact sheet on the Infrastructure Expansion Act points to a 2013 study conducted by Cornell University and the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which found that the Scaffold Law leads to approximately 677 more accidents annually.
The Infrastructure Expansion Act
Faso introduced the Infrastructure Expansion Act in September. Since then, multiple organizations have expressed support for the legislation, including the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and Habitat for Humanity.
Despite this, the Infrastructure Expansion Act still has a long way to go before becoming the law. Members of New York’s construction and insurance industries will want to follow the development of this important legislation.
As always, BNC insurance is your New York construction insurance partner. Stay tuned to our blog for further updates on this topic.