New York State leaders have lacked the political will to fix our state’s broken Scaffold Law for decades. Now a United States Congressman is giving it a try. Rep. John Faso of the Hudson Valley has introduced federal legislation creating a workaround to New York’s burdensome, job killing mandate. The Infrastructure Expansion Act would exempt any construction project in New York State subsidized with federal funds from the state’s current Scaffold Law which mandates absolute liability on building owners and contractors.
New York is the only state in the nation operating under an outdated Scaffold Law unfairly holding property owners and contractors absolutely liable for injuries when a worker falls on a construction site. Under the current law, any contributing fault of the worker – even gross negligence, intoxication or refusal to use safety equipment – cannot be considered in court.
As you can imagine, such a backwards law costs New York’s taxpayers and economy dearly. A 2013 study by the Rockefeller Institute estimated that New York’s Scaffold Law costs taxpayers $785 million a year and private business nearly $1.5 billion a year. A 2014 Cornell University study found that the Scaffold Law is directly responsible for New York having the highest general liability insurance costs in the nation.
For years, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership has advocated, along with employer and industry organizations across the state, to reform the Scaffold Law by replacing absolute liability with a comparative negligence standard, allowing liability to be apportioned based on fault. This is the standard that exists in every state except New York and would be the standard established under Congressman Faso’s bill for construction projects in New York – both public and private – receiving federal funding.