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Q Rally over Scaffold Law

Stephon Johnson | 6/27/2013, 12:05 p.m.

Amsterdam News Staff

With lobbyists for construction and insurance companies in Albany looking to weaken provisions in the Scaffold Law, members of Make the Road New York and victims of construction accidents rallied last week outside of a construction site in Astoria, Queens, where a worker died on the job.

As construction workers are constantly in demand--with some part of the city always being erected--workers hope that Albany resists lobbyists in order to protect labor.

A new report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that nearly 80 percent of fatal construction worker falls occurred on sites where the employer violated OSHA fall prevention standards. In the vast majority of those cases, the victim was an immigrant or Latino.

"We hear about construction accidents a lot in the Make the Road workers' committee," stated Make the Road New York member Mauricio Jiminez. "Immigrants are a big part of the construction workforce, and we do many of the most dangerous jobs. That's why it's so important that we keep the Scaffold Law to protect workers."

The Scaffold Law is a worker safety law that holds contractors responsible for worker injuries if caused by their failure to follow safety laws. According to a statement from Make the Road New York, "The majority of fatal construction accidents occur on sites where employers violate safety rules."

Make the Road New York's Co-Executive Director Deborah Axt said that immigrant workers bear the brunt of workplace dangers, which is why the construction industry covets their labor.

"Immigrant workers receive fewer protections generally, and the construction industry is no different," said Axt in a statement. "OSHA doesn't protect these workers, which is why we need the Scaffold Law to prevent more deaths like the one that occurred at this site."

Marc Proferes, a concrete worker who got injured at what he said was an unsafe work location in Queens, gave a first-hand account of his experience in a statement.

"The scaffold didn't look safe, but my supervisor made me go up anyway," said Proferes. "Workers don't have a say in construction site safety, and that's even more true for non-union immigrant workers."

Another worker felt that eliminating key provisions in the Scaffold Law would be taking a step backwards. Paul Barraco, another worker who was injured on the job, discussed his experience and what companies would do if provisions from the law disappeared.

"I was a construction supervisor until I fell through an unsecured safety bridge," said Barraco. "If Albany changes the Scaffold Law, contractors will have a lot less incentive to keep their workers safe."