New York’s ‘Scaffold Law’ under fire for driving up project costs

Lawmakers under pressure to reform law that makes contractors 100% liable for work-site injuries.

December 20, 2018 |
Man on scaffolding

Courtesy Pixabay

New York State’s so-called “Scaffold Law,” which makes construction companies 100% liable for work-site injuries, is under heavy criticism for driving up the cost of construction projects.

Critics say the law will inflate the cost of the Gateway project, a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River for Amtrak and NJ Transit, by up to $300 million, according to a report in the New York Daily News. The law costs taxpayers at least $785 million annually and private businesses that work on public projects $1.49 billion per year, according to a study by SUNY Rockefeller Institute.

By consuming more tax dollars, the law has diminished the city’s ability to create more affordable housing, a housing advocate says. Insurance policies have become much tougher for contractors to obtain, a situation so dire that a coalition of builders on Long Island wants the state to declare “an insurance state of emergency.”

The president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York says the law has been effective in preventing injuries and saving lives, and challenged critics to prove that the law has hurt companies’ finances.

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