May Day – May 1 – celebrates workers. Another day, Worker’s Memorial Day, took place last week, remembering those who died on the job in the last year. Most of the workers who died might have been alive today had the proper safety precautions been observed.
This is particularly sobering in light of efforts in the construction industry to weaken or eliminate entirely laws that protect workers. One law that has become a particular target of the so-called “reformers” is the Scaffold Law, also known as Labor Law 240. This law requires building owners and general contractors to provide workers with protection against falls – the most common cause of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry.
The rights of workers under this law include:
- The right to work on a properly constructed and maintained scaffold with guard rails on all open sides
- The right to have secure planking where workers stand on scaffolding
- The right to have a body harness attached to a lanyard
- The right to have an anchor securing the lanyard capable of holding 5,000 pounds
An editorial in the Buffalo News advocated for the preservation of the law. According to opponents of the law, proper protection for workers is too costly, even though the existence of the law saves lives every year. Those that argue that the law is too expensive and hinders economic growth are not telling the entire story.
Protections for workers such as those found in the Scaffolding Law have made New York one of the safest places in the country for construction workers. According to the Buffalo News editorial, the law simply requires contractors and those who control building sites to provide mandated safety equipment. If construction companies follow the law, their liability in construction accidents is far, far less. They have every incentive to comply.
Source: Buffalo News, “Scaffold Law provides protection for workers,” Apr.30, 2013.