Scaffold Law should be an easy decision

The state Legislature has come under fire in recent years for its varying forms of illegal and unsavory behavior. It should also come under fire for not pulling the trigger on easy decisions like repealing the Scaffold Law.

The Scaffold Law stipulates that whenever a worker falls from a certain height, the contractor or property owner is legally at fault for the injury. It doesn’t matter if the worker is actually at fault for the fall. Legally there can be no defense mounted. The only purpose of a court case is to determine how much to pay the injured worker.

Building trades officials have been lobbying for the Scaffold Law to be repealed for nearly three decades. Perhaps a new study released last week by Cornell University will provide the final nail in its coffin. The study states New York incurs an additional 677 workplace accidents each year because of the Scaffold Law. At the same time, the Scaffold Law diverts at least $785 million of public money away from schools and local governments toward lawsuits, legal costs and insurance. The picture is even more ugly for private sector builders, who lose an estimated $1.487 billion each year in associated legal costs, workers’ compensation payments, medical costs and other expenses.

In short, the Scaffold Law is a drain on the economy while at the same not protecting anyone except lawyers and insurance agents. Repealing the Scaffold Law could even help the economy, according to the Cornell University report, to the tune of $150 million in net gain to the economy and 12,000 jobs as the public and private sectors would have more money to build things by paying less for liability insurance.

New York can’t be open for business, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is so fond of saying in his television commercials and news releases, as long as the stupid regulations like the Scaffold Law are still in effect. The state Legislature should take a step in the right direction during this legislative term and repeal the Scaffold Law.