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Battle Over Scaffold Law Continues in New York

Contractors have been lobbying hard to change New York Labor Law Section 240, referred to as the Scaffold Law, to reduce their liability in accidents. The 1885 law maintains property owner and contractor liability for “gravity-related” injuries at construction sites.

Opponents of the law have poured resources into a movement called Scaffold Law Reform. They refer to the state’s Scaffold Law as “archaic” and insist that it reduces jobs in the construction industry.

A proposed change to the city’s Scaffold Law hit the Assembly this year but was killed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Daily News quoted Silver as saying: “Changes to the Scaffold Law are not being considered. We don’t think it’s the right policy to further burden injured workers.”

OSHA Standards

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 17.6 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2011 were in construction. This equaled 738 deaths. Falls, including those from scaffolds, were the largest single cause, accounting for 35 percent of the fatalities in construction accidents.

About 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the industry’s workforce, work on scaffolds.

OSHA laws concerning scaffolds are extensive and help to improve safety of workers. Laws related to scaffolding capacity include:

  • A scaffold must be capable of supporting 4 times the maximum load applied to it.
  • Counterweights used to balance adjustable suspension scaffolds must be capable of resisting the greater of the two: At least 4 times tipping moment at rated load of hoist or 1.5 times the tipping moment at stall load of hoist.
  • Suspension ropes must be capable of supporting 6 times the maximum intended load.

The goal of OSHA laws, like that of New York’s Scaffold Law, is to protect workers from harm. Laws also protect workers’ right to fair compensation when accidents occur.

If you have been injured in a scaffold accident or any other accident on a construction site, contact David Resnick & Associates, P.C. Our trained New York construction accident attorneys can help you receive the maximum benefits available under New York law.


David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care. He wanted to help everyday folks who have had the misfortune to be injured in an accident.

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