Democrat & Chronicle: Misinformation muddies discussion about Scaffold Safety Law
Every year, certain special interests aggressively call for weakening New York’s long-standing Scaffold Safety Law. Some may do so because they cynically want to boost their profits by cutting corners and lessening their responsibility to maintain safe worksites.
But I believe that most are doing so because they have been fed a bucketful of misinformation by lobbyists about what the law actually does – while insurance carriers just stand by and refuse to disclose the data that is necessary for lawmakers to evaluate information about liability insurance premiums.
In other words, insurers and contractors want legislators to strip injured workers of protection without any real proof that a liability insurance problem actually exists or that the Scaffold Safety Law is somehow to blame.
First, the facts about the Scaffold Safety Law: Despite lobbyists’ attempts to cloud New Yorkers understanding of what the Scaffold Safety Law does, the law is both eminently reasonable and clear. Contractors must provide adequate safety equipment to workers. If a worker is hurt due to a gravity-related injury (simply put – a fall) and safety equipment was not provided, the contractor is liable for the injuries.
If this seems straightforward, it’s because it is.
Second, the facts about construction workplace hazards: A newly released reportfound that over the past five years, the fatal occupational injury rate statewide in New York increased by 29.5 percent. And in 2017 alone, 71 construction workers were killed on the job.
With construction sites remaining dangerous places to work, we should be strengthening workplace protections, not rolling them back based on unsupported claims about liability costs.
Third, the facts about insurance premiums. We don’t have them because insurers won’t disclose them. Insurance companies are in the business of risk analysis based on data. Policy decisions should be made based on data.
It is disturbing that insurance carriers refuse to disclose the truth about construction liability insurance premiums. Indeed, if the Scaffold Safety Law were legitimately a financial burden, then one would think that insurers would be eager to validate their position and put the information forward.
Certainly, my colleagues and I cannot even begin to evaluate the lobbyists’ assertions without this insurance data.
This year, I’m sponsoring legislation in the Assembly, together with a Republican Senator from Staten Island, Andrew Lanza, to establish transparency in construction liability insurance. The Construction Insurance Transparency Act would require insurers to provide detailed information about costs, revenues and policy premiums to the State Department of Financial Services. This common-sense legislation would ensure transparency and make it possible for all stakeholders to work off the same set of facts.
Let’s address this issue head on: Let’s determine the real facts and identify positive actions that will continue to protect those construction workers who are injured or killed – and their families – while reducing costs through improved safety and other measures that are good and reasonable public policy.
To do so, we need the right information. It’s time for insurers to show us their data so we can get to work.
Harry Bronson represents Rochester and surrounding communities in the New York State Assembly.
Click here to read the op-ed in the Democrat & Chronicle.