New York’s Scaffold Law Debate

On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

New York's scaffolding law that imposes strict liability in situations of injury while at the workplace. In other words, if an employee is injured at a construction site as a result of elevation-related risks, an employer is completely held liable for the injury. There is much debate surrounding this law and how it should be interpreted.

New Developments

The law originally referred to construction accidents that took place high in the air. The worker, in this situation, could be found partially at fault for the accident, but the employer would still be found liable.

In 2009 a court decision changed how the law was interpreted. In the case of Runner v. New York Stock Exchange an employee was using a pulley system, but the court still applied the scaffolding law. The court decided that any situation involving gravity would qualify.

Another recent court decision again broadened the applicability of the scaffolding law. In this decision the court found that even if the worker and object were on the same level, the law would apply and the employer would be held to a strict liability standard.

In the summer of 2012, state legislators proposed a bill that would replace the strict liability standard with that of a negligence standard. Under a negligence standard, the court would also consider the fault of the worker when determining who shall pay for the damages that result from the accident.

Importance of the Law

The scaffolding law and its applications are very important to both the worker and the employer. With the widening reach of the scaffolding law, employers worry expanding liability. Employers complain of increased insurance costs. They believe that changing how the court assesses fault in workplace injuries would help them cut costs.

However, many people worry that changing the strict liability standard will remove policy protections in place in order to protect workers. Some have called New York's scaffolding law one of the most important and effective pieces of workplace safety legislation ever drafted; to amend it now would be taking a step back in workplace safety. Without fear of liability, many believe that construction companies would not take as many safety precautions to protect their workers.

Employer Duty

Regardless of the outcome of the law, employers have a duty to use proper care to protect their workers while on the job. They must provide proper training and equipment and they must maintain a safe environment free of obstacles. When an employer does not meet its duty of care, the employer is negligent and liable for any damages that result.

In a situation of negligence, employees need someone on their side to help prove that a company did not meet its standard of care. Personal injury lawyers work with employees in order to ensure that they receive compensation for their losses.