N.Y. Group: Scaffold Law Will Consume Billions From Public Projects Spending

January 25, 2016

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) said New York’s “Scaffold Law” continues to drive up the cost of construction in the state and warned that the law would consume billions of dollars from the newly proposed infrastructure projects spending.

New York’s Scaffold Law, first adopted in 1885, makes property owners and contractors liable for most “gravity-related” injuries to workers on construction sites.

The Albany-based LRANY pointed out that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address this month, proposed an ambitious $100 billion, multi-year plan to rebuild and modernize the state’s roads, bridges, broadband networks, public buildings, and other critical infrastructure.

LRANY argued that the existing Scaffold Law would consume at least $5 billion of the infrastructure spending proposed by the Cuomo administration.

“It’s a staggering figure,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of LRANY. “Statewide, the financial burden of the Scaffold Law is greater than the entire cost of the Tappan Zee bridge project.”

The group said it used actuarial, public, and academic data to create the cost estimate, including data from the Port Authority and Metropolitan Transit Authority.

After reviewing these sources, LRANY said it found that the Scaffold Law adds at least 5-7 percent to the cost of public projects in New York. While the full $100 billion in projects has not been clarified, LRANY estimated specific costs on several of the governor’s initiatives, including:

  • $1.1-1.54 billion in additional costs to upstate transportation;
  • $150-210 million in additional costs to Penn Station upgrades in New York City;
  • $10-14 million in additional costs to upstate airport reconstruction;
  • $50-70 million in additional costs to the Javits Center project in New York City;
  • $50-70 million in additional costs to the Long Island Rail Road project; and
  • $415-580 million in additional costs to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Plan.

“No other state is burdened with these costs,” said Stebbins. “How can the Governor expect New York to compete?”

Keeping Workers Safe

However, New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), a labor advocacy group in New York City, said the current law is needed to keep New York construction workers safe.

“We know there has been a lot of pushback against the law from various business interest groups,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director at NYCOSH. “What’s important is, how can we make sure that workers are protected on the job? This scaffold safety law is a critical way of keeping workers safe in New York State.”

Obernauer said the scaffold law will remain on the books because it’s a common-sense construction safety law that keeps workers safe. In addition, both sides of the aisle in Albany continue to support the law, she said.

“From our perspective, we really need to be concerned about how to increase workers’ safety, and not try to cut back on important regulations that have been keeping workers safe,” she said.

Topics New York Construction

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Latest Comments

  • January 27, 2016 at 6:01 pm
    R says:
    I work in a state that is as far from NY geographically as it is politically - Texas. The former AG stated his job was to come to work, sue the federal government, and go home... read more
  • January 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm
    Rusty says:
    If OSHA has to rely on the scaffold law to keep workers safe, they must not be doing a very good job themselves in NY. No other state has this law which predates Workers Comp... read more
  • January 26, 2016 at 4:30 pm
    Eli Mishanie says:
    Labor Laws started out prior to Workers' Compensation in the 1800's. Workers' Compensation was then introduced around 1914 and was supposed to be sole remedy as well as to eli... read more

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