A new study from researchers at the University of Albany and Cornell found that a New York Scaffold Law might not be living up to its intentions anymore. Labor Law 240 is unique to the state of New York and holds employers absolutely liable for any injuries that occur at any height. Researchers say that the law doesn’t do much in the way of improving workplace safety and uses up millions of dollars on litigation and insurance fees.
The study, commissioned by the New York Civil Justice Institute, found that the language of the law applies an additional 677 workplace accidents per year for New York. This law has been in place since 1885 and has been debated in recent years by those who say it is outdated. Those who want the law to change say that the law is unnecessary and drives up costs. They say workers’ compensation should cover any accidents that occur and employers shouldn’t have to worry about another premium. Those in favor of the law say it protects workers and promotes workplace safety.
The Scaffold Law leaves employers susceptible to litigation and much more expensive legal proceedings, while usually workers’ compensation is directly paid and employers can make sure their employees are taken care of without the additional trial cost.
The research indicates that around $785 million is taken away from other public state services involving schools or local governments to pay for lawyer fees, lawsuits and insurance fees. It adds extra expenses to private and public construction projects. Researchers say that the effects of the public sector cost on the economy ($785 million) and the $1.487 billion on the private sector, bring the total cost of the law on the state to between $2.92 billion and $3 billion dollars a year.
I know each state has its own workers’ compensation rules and regulations and that New York is allowed to do what it thinks is best for the state. If there were an easier way to protect workers, promote workplace safety and avoid almost $3 billion a year, maybe the state should look into alternatives. Are you a New Yorker who has witnessed the effects of this Scaffold Law firsthand? Let us know what you think.