Letters to the Editor

Methodology for ‘Scaffold Law’ study flawed

Your article Report questions effectiveness of New York scaffold law is based on flawed research from a biased source. Although attributed to a nonprofit institute, the funding agency was established by the construction industry to amend or repeal the Scaffold Law. You noted that the report was from Cornell University; the only connection to Cornell is a faculty member who was an independent consultant on the project. The professor has no prior publications related to construction workers or occupational safety and health – in other words, no established expertise in relevant subject matter.

New York’s construction industry safety record is better than the national average – impressive given that there is more construction at height than in other states, thus a higher risk of injury. The estimates of increased injury supposedly caused by this law established to protect workers are astounding, but are derived from flawed statistical methodology, including failure to control for relevant institutional influences.

As a Cornell faculty economist who has devoted his career to the study of worker organizations and the politics of labor regulation, I am skeptical of the veracity and implications of the report’s conclusions. I believe that New York should retain the Scaffold Law and its commitment to protecting construction workers, not sacrifice worker safety in the pursuit of narrow efficiency and cost savings for the construction industry.

(NOTE: The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not represent an official position of Cornell University.)

Richard W. Hurd
Professor of Labor Studies
Associate Dean for External Relations
Cornell University ILR School
Ithaca, NY

Mandatory hearing conservation programs in construction ‘a large leap’

I just read Ashley Johnson’s article on hearing conservation for construction – which was very good, by the way.

I have mixed feelings about a hearing conservation program for construction, as long as the employer is properly ensuring all the workers are wearing proper hearing protection when they should be wearing it. I feel every job should be considered on a case-by-case basis, or determined by what type of actual work is done and the periodicity. Making it mandatory across the entire construction field just seems a large leap, when many of us are doing our best to ensure our workers are protected from loud noises.

But that’s a long debate I won’t get into any further. The main reason I’m writing is that the article refers to earplugs with an NRR of 33 dBA, and says that in most cases just using 10-15 dBA would probably be sufficient. True, but it doesn’t point out a vital part of those numbers, which is that an NRR 33 dBA earplug is not going to give that much protection, but instead more likely be in the area of 15-18 approximately, all depending on users and their ability to fit the earplugs in well. So, in reality, using a 33 meets that 10-15 range just fine.

Ron Ross
Orange Park, FL