Letter: Scaffold Law Needs Reforming

In today’s Albany Times Union, Wilem O. Rijksen of the American Insurance Association argues that Scaffold Law reform opponents’ calls for more data is a thinly veiled diversionary tactic.

The Times Union’s endorsement of the status quo regarding New York’s antiquated Scaffold Law is problematic like the law itself (“Long story short; Resist industry pressure; it won’t be futile,” June 8).

Proponents of this outdated law continue to defend its “merits” despite the fact that it’s responsible for our state having the highest general liability insurance costs in the nation for construction. New York remains the only state in the country to place a strict liability standard on contractors. That means that even if a worker’s elevation-related injury or fall is due to their own negligence, the contractor is 100 percent liable. Other states apportion liability in proportion to fault.

Failure to reform the Scaffold Law has led to a crisis in the state’s construction liability market. Moreover, taxpayers are footing the bill for millions of dollars in extra construction-related costs for publicly funded projects — an estimated $200 million for the Tappan Zee Bridge alone, according to an insurance executive quoted by Crain’s New York Business. All of which is bad news for New York’s economy — an estimated $3 billion annually in extra costs, according to the Rockefeller Institute.  

Read the full letter here

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