A study published this month challenges the claim that New York’s Labor Law 240, also known as the “Scaffold Law,” improves workplace safety. The study argues New York incurs additional workplace accidents because of the Scaffold Law and that the law diverts millions of dollars to lawsuits, legal costs and insurance.

For over 30 years, New York’s Scaffold Law has been a frequent target of debate in Albany, according to the nonprofit New York Civil Justice Institute, which commissioned the study. The study was jointly conducted by researchers at the University at Albany and Cornell University.

Proponents of reform, including contractors, businesses and local governments, charge that the absolute liability standard of the Scaffold Law is outdated and unnecessarily drives up costs for construction in New York, the nonprofit group said, while those opposing reform counter that placing absolute liability onto contractors and property is essential for workplace safety.

The nonprofit group quotes the study researchers as saying that “analysis indicates that Labor Law 240 [Scaffold Law] increases the construction injury rate in the occupations to which it is applied with a very high degree of confidence.” The study said New York incurs, on average, 677 more workplace accidents per year because of the Scaffold Law.

In addition, the group said researchers at the University at Albany reviewed hundreds of cases and public filings and discovered that the Scaffold Law diverts at least $785 million of public money away from schools and local governments towards lawsuits, legal costs and insurance.

The study also analyzed the effect of the $785 million public sector cost on the rest of economy, as well as the cost of the Scaffold Law on the private sector, which is estimated at $1.487 billion. Researchers said these two costs — along with the associated legal costs, workers’ compensation payments, medical costs and other costs — bring the total estimated cost of the Scaffold Law to between $2.92 billion and $3.01 billion annually.

Source: The New York Civil Justice Institute