Business Council rebuts claims in Times Union Editorial

The below letter to the editor was submitted to the Albany Times Union last week. 

New York’s so-called “scaffold law” may be the most misunderstood, or at least most mischaracterized, section of New York State statute. And based on your September 24 editorial, “An attack on worker safety,” the Times Union editorial board has never read New York State Labor Law Section 240 or Congressman Faso’s proposed legislation. We have attached copies of both for your review. Upon review, the board will see the Faso legislation does not change a word in existing NYS labor safety standards. Furthermore, in no way does the Faso bill, or similar state-level proposals, “erod[e] worker protections.” Likewise, your editorial is simply wrong in asserting that contractors and property owners are only liable under court interpretations of Section 240 “if property safety measures weren’t in place.” Courts developed the strict liability standard for property owners and contractors for such injuries, even if workers ignore safety standards or safety equipment.  

The reforms proposed at both the state and federal level simply apply the exact same liability standard – contributory negligence – to Section 240 claims that apply to all other types of tort claims under long-standing New York State law. In doing so, New York also matches the approach of every other state. There is no doubt the current tilted 240 liability standard adds significantly to the direct cost of public and private construction in New York State, and impacts the state’s economic competitiveness with other states.

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President
The Business Council of New York State
Albany, NY