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Group lobbies to amend scaffolding law

A group of contractors and property owners in New York have begun an lobbying campaign to amend the state's Scaffolding Law. The law, which was first enacted in 1885, holds construction companies accountable for ensuring the safety of employees who work on above-ground construction and is intended to prevent construction injuries. Construction companies are financially liable for injuries that occur due to lack of proper safety precautions on above-ground building projects, and injured workers can sometimes receive large payouts.

The lobbying group contends that the law does not allow workers to be held accountable for their own failure to utilize safety measures. The law also drives up the price of liability insurance. These high prices cause financial difficulties for small construction businesses, which, in turn, damages the state economy. Under the amended law, if a construction company could prove that a worker's injury was due in part to his or her own negligence, the worker would be entitled to less financial compensation.

Those in favor of keeping the Scaffolding Law as it now stands include workers' advocates and union representatives. They say that the law functions to protect workers and worry that any change may make it easier for construction companies to ignore proper safety precautions. The pro-amendment lobby, however, says that construction companies would still remain responsible for their workers' safety.

An on-the-job accident can lead to serious injuries, which may cause a worker to become physically disabled and unable to return to work. Lost wages due to lost hours may make it hard to keep up with bills, such as rent or house payments and utility bills. While the workers' compensation insurance company is likely to offer a settlement, it may not be enough to take care of all of the worker's expenses. However, the worker may choose to decline a settlement and file a workers' compensation claim in a civil court.

Source: The New York Times, "Contractors and Workers at Odds Over Scaffold Law", Kirk Semple, December 17, 2013

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