New York is one of the safest states for workers, in part because of Labor Law 240-241, sometimes call the “scaffolding law.” These statutes make owners and contractors absolutely liable for injuries that occur to construction workers. This means that they must provide safe scaffolding, ladders, elevators, and flooring to protect workers from falls and other workplace accidents.
Although injuries and fatalities continue to occur, the existence of this law is good news for New York workers and the millions who live and visit here. But other states are not so fortunate. The recent explosion in a Texas fertilizer plant illustrates what it is like to live and work in a place with almost none of the workplace safety protections provided by New York law.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation insurance. Many cities, including Houston, have no zoning laws. There is no state fire code; moreover, state law prohibits small counties from having fire codes. The list goes on.
Texas has something to show for its lax worker safety laws: The highest number of workplace fatalities in the United States during the past decade. It averages more than 400 worker deaths each year. The monetary cost is also staggering. Fires and explosions cost more in Texas than in all other states combined during a five-year period ending in 2012.
Lack of fire safety regulation and inspection is believed to have been a major factor in the explosion that recently killed 14 workers in Texas and injured scores more. And although some lawmakers in Texas are calling for increased safety regulations, others continue to respond that such laws would place an undue burden on businesses.
Source:ThePopTort, “Safety Lessons from New York to Texas,” May 10, 2013.