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A current proposal to make drastic changes to New York’s scaffold law – a vital protection for workers injured on construction sites around the state – could end up leaving the state’s jobsites a dangerous place to be. The scaffold law conveys what is known in legal circles as “absolute liability” to owners of property where a worker is injured in a fall from a scaffold or ladder. The law essentially makes the assumption that there must have been some sort of unsafe condition on the jobsite; otherwise, a worker would not have been injured.
Some business owners are putting pressure on local and regional politicians to modify the law in order to expose landowners to less potential liability and allow for lower premiums for the insurance they purchase to protect themselves in the event of a construction accident. General contractors – who are also on the hook when laborers or subcontractors they have hired are injured in a “gravity-related” accident – are also rallying for changes to be made to the law. They don’t want to be automatically saddled with liability when a worker falls from an unsafe ladder or scaffold, or if an injury occurs due to a falling object (these are also considered “gravity-related” accidents under New York Labor Law Section 240, where the scaffold law is codified).
It is understandable that property owners and contractors wouldn’t want the uncertainty inherent with any construction project where workers could be injured in a fall or by a falling object, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable when a laborer has a workplace accident.
Currently the movement to revise the law is contained at the local/regional level, so it is unknown what – if any – impact the proposals will have on the protections offered to construction site workers. If you or a loved one has been injured in a jobsite gravity-related accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.