The annual attack on the scaffold safety law by right wing think tanks, insurance companies and contractors who stand to increase their profits has begun in earnest. Do not be lulled by mischaracterizations of this vital safety law or the misinformation campaign about its impact. The scaffold safety law saves lives and that, in and of itself, should be enough to support its protection.
The scaffold safety law saves lives because it requires developers and contractors to provide necessary safety equipment and the training to use it effectively. The law ensures that proper safety protocol is followed and provides recourse when contractors’ failure to follow that protocol leads to worker injury or death.
Opponents claim that the scaffold safety law imposes absolute liability on the employers. That is simply not true. Injured workers must prove the elements of their case while contractors and developers are entitled to defend themselves. The concept of automatic liability is a fiction. Further, the scaffold safety law only applies to gravity-related injuries.
Opponents also claim that minority and women owned businesses cannot afford the insurance and that the cost of the insurance prevents public works projects from moving forward. Again, despite the allegations, this is not true. The NYS AFLCIO has supported legislation to require insurers to show how premiums are calculated. Of course, insurance companies oppose this proposal because it would likely expose the enormous profits they make on these policies at the expense of the developers, contractors and the public. Rather than attack worker protections, we should review the profits that are being made off these insurance policies.
What is true is that immigrant workers and workers of color disproportionately fall victim to construction injuries. Another truth is that the scaffold safety law places the responsibility for construction site safety in the hands of the people who are best able to control construction sites: owners, contractors and developers.
Claims that saving taxpayer dollars or creating jobs are the motivating factor for opponents of the scaffold law ring hollow. Unfortunately, profit is the underlying reason that opponents of the scaffold law are seeking changes to it. Profit can never come before workers’ lives.
Mario Cilento, President