But a study by the Center for Popular Democracy argues that the change will unfairly impact Latino workers.
According to the study, which reviewed OSHA investigations from construction site accidents from 2003 to 2011, workers of Latino descent are at greater risk of being hurt or killed on the job site.
Latino workers were victims in 60 percent of fatal falls in New York State, while that figure rose to 74 percent when looking solely at accidents in New York City.
To narrow the figures down further, Latino workers made up 88 percent of fatal falls in Queens and 87 percent in Brooklyn. Of these workers, 86 percent of them were not working for a labor union.
“Our study explains that construction workers of color, especially immigrants, are at greater risk of death from falls because they are more likely to work for smaller, non-union construction firms that shortcut worker's safety,” said Amy Carroll, deputy director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “That means that if developers and special interests get their way in Albany and gut the Scaffold Law, more people of color will die.”
In 2008, Pedro Corchado was injured in a fall at a construction site.
“Almost anybody who works in construction will tell you it’s hard to refuse a boss’ direction to climb onto a scaffold that’s not entirely safe or go up a ladder without the appropriate safety equipment,” said Corchado.
Not every member of the state legislature is in favor of changing the law.
“The Scaffold Law is necessary to hold contractors responsible for safety on their work sites,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya. “If the law were gutted, it would only place already vulnerable workers in further danger of serious injury or loss of life.”
Those in favor of the reform argue that the current law allows workers too much freedom to sue a contractor.
“Reforming the Scaffold Law by giving contractors and others their day in court will reduce cost of construction, create jobs and promote greater workplace safety,” said Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of Associated General Contractors of New York State. “It is a fundamental issue of fairness.”