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Scaffold Law is wrongly characterized in new report

In the March 10 editorial “New study makes a powerful case against the ‘Scaffold Law,’” the new study in question is simply wrong.

You correctly note that the report was produced by the Rockefeller Institute, but the research was not conducted “in association with Cornell University.”

The only connection to Cornell is a faculty member who was an independent consultant on the project. The professor has no prior publications related to construction workers or occupational safety and health. In other words, no established expertise in relevant subject matter.

New York’s construction industry safety record is better than the national average, impressive given that there is more construction at height than in other states, thus a higher risk of injury. The estimates of increased injury supposedly caused by this law established to protect workers are astounding, but are derived from flawed statistical methodology.

The authors fail to control for relevant institutional influences, and misapply advanced statistical techniques. The supposed “significantly higher worker non-fatal injury rate” is an unfortunate byproduct of researcher error.

There are technical problems with inappropriate application of differences in differences modeling, and results from clustering of standard errors that are totally uncharacteristic of this statistical tool. In other words, the significance that the authors have identified is almost certainly imaginary, and the results are unreliable.

As a Cornell faculty economist who has devoted his career to the study of worker organizations and the politics of labor regulation, I am deeply skeptical of the veracity and implications of the report’s conclusions. I believe that New York should retain the Scaffold Law and its commitment to protecting construction workers, not sacrifice worker safety in the pursuit of cost savings for the construction industry.

Richard W. Hurd

Trumansburg