Despite a sharp rise in the number of New York City scaffolding accidents, some people have called for changes in New York’s landmark Scaffold Law, a proposal that fails to make worker safety a priority, according to New York construction accident attorney Edgar Romano of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP.
“Most of the changes being proposed to Labor Law 240 could have an extremely harmful effect on the people who work on scaffolding high above the ground in New York City,” Romano said. “These laws were created for a reason – to keep construction workers safe who work on high-rise buildings in New York. And the only reason anyone seems to want to change these laws is because they simply want to save a few dollars at the expense of workers’ safety.”
New York’s so-called “Scaffold Law” (officially known as Labor Law 240) was created in 1885 in order to protect construction workers who were increasingly working on taller buildings. But 130 years later, the dangers of working on scaffolding outside skyscrapers in New York City remain just as real. In fact, there has been a dramatic increase this year in the number of fatal New York City construction accidents, especially on skyscrapers. This year, there have been more fatal New York construction accidents than any year since 2008, according to The New York Times, which wrote about this crisis in June. (The New York Times, “Fatal Construction Accidents Are Rising in New York,” June 2, 2015)
Since June, the number of fatal construction accidents in New York, especially ones involving workers falling from scaffolding and other tall buildings, has continued to skyrocket. Earlier this month, a construction worker died after he fell 13 floors from scaffolding on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. (The Real Deal, “Worker dies after fall at UES co-op building,” Sept. 1, 2015) Also this month, a 19-year-old New York City construction worker died when a wall collapsed on him and he was crushed to death. (The New York Times, “Worker Who Died in Wall Collapse Warned of Problems at Construction Site,” Sept. 4, 2015)
And last month, a construction worker died when he fell four stories down an elevator shaft at a construction site in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. (NBC 4 News, “Worker Plunges 4 Stories to Death at Manhattan Construction Site: Police,” Aug. 25, 2015)
Even so, some people continue to discuss changing or eliminating New York’s Scaffold Law. One New York developer recently said it would be the first thing he would change if he was governor for the day. (Albany Business Review, “What these real estate dealmakers would do if they were New York’s governor for one day,” Sept. 11, 2015)
Romano strongly disagrees, saying New York’s Scaffold Law provides valuable protections for vulnerable construction workers. “There’s so much pressure nowadays to save a few dollars at the expense of worker safety,” Romano said. “We cannot forget the reason why this law was created in the first place. Before many labor laws were passed in America, construction workers often died while building new structures. And the risks workers faced only became greater as buildings became taller in New York.”
“The argument that New York’s Scaffold Law is hurting business in New York just doesn’t add up,” Romano added. “The construction business is booming in New York City. And businesses need to make sure they continue to hire qualified, experienced construction workers who are properly training and receive all the necessary protections. There’s absolutely no room for error when you’re working hundreds of feet in the air.”