Scaffold Law

It is often referred to as the “Scaffold” or “Scaffolding” Law.

Any property owner or contractor in New York State involved in building, demolishing, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing certain structures should understand the specifics of this law and its statutory liabilities.

Section 240 of the New York Labor Laws governs the use of scaffolding and other devices and imposes special duties and obligations on site owners and contractors. Essentially it requires contractors, owners and their agents (with some limited exceptions) to be responsible for providing necessary equipment (e.g. scaffolds, ladders, hoists, other similar devices) to keep workers safe from on-the-job falls.

Opponents of the law argue that it is outdated and absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements in lawsuits. The settlements, opponents contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and economic growth in the State. The law is one of the biggest cost drivers to doing business in New York which remains the only state in the nation where such a law is still on the books.

A growing statewide movement – including the Partnership and its strategic partner, Unshackle Upstate, a pro-economic development advocacy organization – seeks to reform the law. The aim is to have New York State pass legislation to apply a comparative negligence standard (liability proportional to fault) under the Scaffold Law in situations where a worker’s injury is caused by a failure to follow safety training, intoxication or commission of a crime.

With the amount of construction and redevelopment underway in Western New York, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership recognizes it is more important than ever for members to stay informed on the Scaffold Law.

Since the inception of our annual legislative agenda, the Partnership has pushed for reform or outright elimination of Scaffold Law provisions, joining ranks with more than 50 advocacy groups urging New York State to make changes to the law.

The Partnership supports the Unshackle Upstate Annual Policy Agenda that includes reforming the Scaffold Law and will continue to make it an advocacy priority.

Links & Resources

Buffalo Niagara Partnership Blogs

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Unshackle Upstate

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Scaffold Law Reform

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