A recent building boom in New York City has contributed to the rising rates of construction accidents city-wide. According to the New York Post, construction-related deaths have surged 17 percent this year. The city Buildings Department had reported eight construction accident deaths in the first half of 2018, compared to only four over the same time frame in 2017. Additionally, a reported 469 people were injured in 457 accidents on the job through July of this year.
In one construction-related death, the city Buildings Department reported an incident inside a West Village residential building at 36 Grove St. A live wire reportedly electrocuted a hardhat on July 16, 2018. Only four days earlier, a falling piece of scaffolding hit and fatally injured a worker on the head at the International House at 424 Riverside Dr. in Morningside Heights.
Other incidents reported by the city Buildings Department include:
- A worker fell 40 feet to the ground in June, breaking a shoulder and suffering potential back injuries. The accident was blamed on shoddy building framework.
- A worker accidentally drilled a screw into his own hand at an office building in the Meatpacking District.
- A pipe’s support strap was cut, resulting in a 4-foot fall onto a worker’s head at 450 W. 33rd
According to a construction accident lawyer in New York, the often-competitive construction industry grants contracts to the lowest builder. The labor laws of New York State were designed to ensure adequate safety for workers, including those who are skilled and experienced or those who lack formal training or have language barriers.
In particular, New York’s Scaffold Law protects construction workers who work on ladders and scaffolds and are at risk from elevation-related activities. The law places responsibility for safety on those in control of ensuring that workers receive proper protection while performing elevation-related activities, including construction, erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning, and pointing of a building or structure.
New York City reported that last year, it issued 168,243 construction permits, the highest on record. This created a record 45,242 construction workers. New York has cracked down on the construction industry as of late, in an attempt to protect workers in the field.
In 2016, a movement to quadruple penalties for safety lapses was presented, as well as the hiring of new enforcement inspectors. As a result, 140 new inspectors were hired the same year. In October, a requirement for construction workers to log more training hours was introduced.
Under a law passed last year, the city Buildings Department has to post all construction-related deaths and injuries online. Soldevere was quoted as saying, “We’re taking aggressive action and calling them out publicly in monthly enforcement bulletins.”
When asked about the new laws, Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos responded, “Every life, injury and accident in construction is finally being counted, because they matter. We can and must do better as a city to ensure proper training, on the job experience, coupled with the right to say no to danger.”