By Chris Engelhardt
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) killed proposed changes to the city’s Scaffold Law Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights).
The Scaffold Law, a worker safety law enacted in 1885, protects workers by holding contractors and developers accountable for injuries at a worksite.
But new legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle (D-Irondequoit) and state Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) would have added new language, requiring juries to also consider workers’ actions when weighing injuries in court cases.
The proposed legislation says it “attempts to contain the costs of absolute liability in a fair manner by making an employee who directly contributes to his injury liable for the portion of fault assessed by a jury for his own conduct.”
The new legislation proposed that such a standard could only be applied in limited circumstances, such as in the case of a criminal act, the use of drugs or alcohol, failure to use safety devices at the job site, failure to comply with employer instructions with regard to the use of safety devices at the job site or failure of the employee to comply with safe work practices.
But according to Meghan Tadio, chief of staff for Moya’s office, Silver squashed the new legislation Tuesday.
“The bill was to change it and repeal portions, which we were opposing,” she said. “We wanted to keep it as it stands.”
The announcement comes after members of Make the Road New York, a Jackson Heights-based immigration advocacy group, rallied Monday, calling on lawmakers to maintain the Scaffold Law to ensure the safety of construction workers across the city.
Members gathered at 45-11 Broadway in Astoria, the construction site where former construction worker Ricardo Gonzalez, 45, of Brentwood, N.Y., fell 15 feet from the first floor of the building and later died from head trauma back in late January.
Marc Proferes, a carpenter for more than 35 years, was injured in a scaffold accident in 1997 while working in Glen Oaks, came out to the rally to support construction workers and voice his backing of the Scaffold Law.
“My supervisor told us to go up there, and it was totally unsafe,” he said of his experience, noting that he broke his back and badly injured his knee in his accident. “I was bedridden for six years.”
In a statement Wednesday, Moya said it remains crucial to keep the law in place and stressed the importance of protection for construction workers.
“It is critical that construction workers are able to go to work every day and know that the equipment they are using and the worksite as a whole is safe,” he said. “The Scaffold Law holds contractors and developers accountable for the conditions they ask employees to work under. Many of my constituents who are immigrants working in construction face the fear of compromised wages and safety.
“As construction deadlines create an impulse to push speed over safety, and with employer retaliation all too common, the Scaffold Law maintains its importance in both protecting workers and giving employers incentive to keep job sites safe.”
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.