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'Scaffold Law' continues to draw ire in New York

Construction workers inherently work in a dangerous industry. They are around powerful machinery; they deal with heavy equipment and materials; and the chaotic nature of a construction site lends itself to accidents. Just because these brave people work in a tough industry does not mean that any harm or injuries they suffer is "part of the job." They need laws, protocols and protections to ensure they are covered in case of a terrible construction accident.

In the state of New York, there is one particular law that has garnered a lot of attention over the years -- and it's about to get even more controversial. The law, known as the "Scaffold Law," essentially says that contractors and property owners are responsible for the scaffolds and other safety equipment workers need when they perform "aboveground" construction. Essentially, if a worker is in a high place and is reliant on safety equipment (such as scaffolding), it is the contractor or property owner who is held liable if anything goes wrong.

So what's the problem? How could anyone be against this?

Well, the law was written in the late 1800s, and even though it has been updated since then, contractors and property owners in New York say that the wording is ambiguous enough to cause them financial headaches. They say that any accident relating to aboveground construction and the safety equipment the worker uses -- even an accident caused by the worker -- makes them liable, and that the law should be repealed or completely reworded.

The controversy will rage into the new year, as contractors and property owners are pushing for this change to happen soon.

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

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