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Sometimes it’s an interesting exercise to look at how things are done in the States, scaffolding wise, and there’s been a development on the legal front over in New York this week.
As potentially, what happens in the US regarding general health and safety in the scaffolding world, may eventually happen over here to scaffolders in Winchester or elsewhere in the UK.
This development is a particularly interesting and controversial one, in that New York lawmakers appear to be trying to shift the emphasis for safety more onto the shoulders of the scaffolding worker.
A bill has been put forward which proposes to change the current situation in New York, whereby property owners and employers bear absolute liability for accidents involving heights (from scaffolds to ladders) which construction workers are involved in.
If the bill was passed, it would alter this absolute liability situation. The new legislation would mean that the injured worker could potentially be found at fault, and in violation of scaffold law.
The absolute liability situation would instead be replaced with a “negligence standard”, meaning that liability would be divided up proportionally among the parties who were judged to be at fault in any given incident.
In other words, the worker’s conduct would be used in determining liability, meaning that responsibility for safety would then lie at least partially on the employee’s shoulders. Which certainly isn’t the situation if you’re working on scaffolding in Portsmouth, of course, and it seems like quite a dangerous road for our American cousins to be going down.
It rather threatens the legal protection currently afforded to New York construction workers, and seems to be moving in favour of the big fish companies, as opposed to the minnow employees; an odd direction to take.
Could scaffold erectors in Havant share something like equal safety responsibility with staff members, one day? Such a move surely wouldn’t happen in this country, and to be honest, it’s doubtful if the New York legislation will be passed into law.
Apparently reforms to scaffolding law such as this are proposed, with the parties behind them trying to push them through, on a regularly (seemingly annual) basis. And that’s despite the fact that New York workplace fatalities and injuries continue to increase every year.
We’ll be keeping an interested eye on this legislation for developments.
New York Mulls Scaffolding Law Reform
15 June 2012
15 June 2012