By Rohan Defreitas, CEO of Crescent Consulting
I have been a consultant for minority- and woman-owned businesses in the construction industry for 33 years. The better part of my career has been spent working with small construction business leaders, listening to their concerns, helping them manage their struggles and maximizing their successes. So it’s encouraging to hear elected officials say they prioritize the unique challenges that my clients face. But despite their promises to help MWBEs, many state lawmakers refuse to address a major issue that may be the single most damaging state-level policy for minority and woman owned construction firms. That policy is the outrageous Scaffold Law and if New York lawmakers are serious about helping MWBEs, they must find a way to reform it.
The Scaffold Law says construction firms are 100 percent liable for all gravity-related injuries that happen on job sites. So even if a worker ignores safety protocols or refuses proper equipment that worker bears no responsibility if he or she falls and gets injured. This unfair law—which was written in the 1800s and only exists in New York—drastically increases construction insurance costs and jacks up the price tag of every project in this state by at least 5 percent. But studies have shown that the Scaffold Law does nothing to improve worker safety and provides no incentive for construction companies to keep their workers out of harm’s way. It is all cost and no benefit.