Scaffold Law needed to protect workers

The News is right to focus on growing Western New York’s economy, but putting construction workers in harm’s way by weakening the common-sense Scaffold Law is a dangerous proposition that should not be considered. Construction is still one of the deadliest jobs in America. There were 721 construction deaths across the country in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and thousands of serious injuries. From 2009 to 2011, there were 101 construction deaths in New York State alone.

Yet, by comparison New York remains one of the safest states for construction workers, thanks to strong safety laws like the Scaffold Law, which would really be more aptly referred to as the Preventable Injury Law. The law is simple. It says that owners and general contractors who control a worksite and are in the best position to ensure a safe working environment are responsible for making sure the site is run safely and providing workers with life-saving equipment and training. Owners or contractors cannot be held liable under the law if they follow the law. Unless their failure to comply with the law caused a workplace injury, they cannot be held responsible.

The law’s critics have made a series of wild and dubious claims about the law, but the fact is that, as The News has reported, the law has not slowed the biggest construction boom we have seen in years here in Western New York. The law simply makes sure that construction workers who work in dangerous conditions are given appropriate safety devices to prevent them from being harmed.

By all means, Albany should look for ways to cut red tape and spur new investment, but trading safety for profit should never be considered in doing so.

Germain Harnden

Executive Director

Western New York Council on

Occupational Safety & Health