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Rep. Williams legislation aims to reform NY's scaffold law

Congressman Brandon Williams (R-Sennett) holds a press conference on the scaffold law on May 20, 2023.
Ava Pukatch
Congressman Brandon Williams (R-Sennett) holds a press conference on the scaffold law on May 20, 2023.

Rep. Brandon Williams (R-Sennett) has introduced the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2023 which aims to reform scaffold laws like New York state's. The scaffold law puts absolute liability on employers and property owners for gravity-related injuries. It is only found in New York.

Williams said his bill would bar absolute liability from being imposed on any claims against a project receiving federal financial assistance.

"This would protect federal money from the scaffold law and ensure that money we get for the state goes toward infrastructure and workers that are building infrastructure projects, not to pay trial lawyers," Williams said.

Williams said the scaffold law is outdated and leads to higher construction costs.

"With Micron coming to the area, this is more important than ever," Williams said. "Housing is already a big challenge for us here in central New York and it's only going to become worse with the influx of additional workers. My bill will make it easier for us to build the housing stock that these workers need."

More than 30 organizations have signed Williams' letter to Congress showing their support for his bill.

Mary Thompson, of Homebuilders and Remodelers of Central New York which signed onto a letter of support, said the absolute liability standard can make it difficult to give insurance to contractors. She also said standards have changed since it was first enacted.

"It was put in place in the late 1800s," Thompson said. "Since then we have OSHA, we have workman's comp, we have all the things in place to help. It's just New York state that has this still stuck on the books."

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.