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NY Building Trades Leader: Insurance Co.’s to Blame for Many Scaffold Law Attacks

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The president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, James Cahill, is calling out state leaders in Albany who seek to dismantle worker-protective scaffolding laws. Noting the importance of the law for workers hoping to restart life after catastrophic injuries, Cahill questions why the focus of opponents’ arguments is directed at labor and not insurance companies.  

High costs relating to the risks involved with construction unfairly punish responsible contractors and do not follow the standards in other insurance scenarios, Cahill told Labor Press writer Joe Maniscalco. “Why is the price going up?,” he asked. “Legitimate management has said they’re not against safety. And they want answers, too. But they can’t get answers from the insurance companies.”

Contractors who misclassify their employees to avoid insurance responsibility place increased burden on the insurance industry which in turn recoups its losses at the expense of responsible contractors.  Using Labor Law 240 (the scaffold law) as the scapegoat for a broken system avoids the actual cause of problem.  In an industry filled with occupational hazards, laws such as New York’s scaffolding law are vital to labor and enable recourse for workers placed in unsafe work environments:

According to a New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health [NYCOSH] report issued in April, “Construction workers increasingly are self-employed, as contractors try to avoid paying for benefits and workers’ compensation insurance by hiring supposedly independent contractors.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], meanwhile, has found that its field inspectors “all too often encounter job sites where fall protection is inadequate or absent, exposing workers to the number one killer in construction work.”

Earlier this month in Brooklyn, OSHA determined that a contractor employing workers to  demolish a three-story residential building near Prospect Park, failed to provide them with, and  ensure the use of, lifesaving fall protection.

Cahill has a message for those who call Labor Law 240 “archaic”:

“Tell that to the guy that’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  The insurance companies have refused to open up their books to their customers or to us.


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