Recently, The New York Times published an expose shedding light on the rising number of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry over the last two years. The investigation uncovered that although construction has risen by 11% in the last fiscal year, the rate of accidents has increased by a disproportionate 52%.
The Times called many of the accidents that occurred “completely avoidable,” concurring with a federal investigation’s findings of one of the accidents. Many of the same safety violations continued to occur on the sites despite safety reports issued and lawsuits commenced. According to a report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, many construction companies do not take violations seriously as they are aware of the limited number of OSHA inspectors and low penalties.
Most of the deaths and injuries that occurred on construction sites affected undocumented immigrants who may be fearful to speak out against safety violations on construction sites due to their legal status. The Times cited one recent tragedy in which an immigrant had fallen 140 feet to his death because he was not wearing a safety harness. Additionally, guardrails had not been installed at the site, and the elevated platform did not meet the wall as required. Investigators found that the worker had fake certification for safety training. The safety administration fined the construction company $42,000 for these and additional violations.
Although the accidents that took place in Midtown over the last two years were highly publicized, they only made up approximately ¼ of the total accidents throughout the city. Many more took place on smaller sites that employed non-union and untrained workers.
The Times referred to several tragedies that took place over the last two years on construction sites including the death of an immigrant worker from falling 14 feet due to lack of guard rails and supervision; the death of an immigrant who fell from a ladder because the construction company demanded jobs be completely quickly and without safety training; the death of a worker who fell through a floor opening as a result of slippery winter conditions that went ignored; the death of a worker who fell two stories and was not provided with a safety harness, extension ladder, or safe scaffold conditions.
Various agencies in New York City have begun cracking down and penalizing companies that disregard safety regulations. For example, although criminality in construction accident cases has often been difficult to prove, the Manhattan DA’s Office filed manslaughter and other charges against two construction companies and managers last August. The charges were filed after a worker was crushed to death as a result of willfully ignored safety regulations. Additionally, the de Blasio administration is planning on implementing 100 additional building inspectors as well as new data tools and a code of conduct for the construction industry. New York City’s investigation department also continues to conduct random inspections that it began in 2012 in an effort to deter the corruption that is so prevalent in the industry.
If you have been injured in a construction site accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who handles such matters. Arze & Mollica, LLP provides legal representation to individuals who have suffered construction injuries throughout New York City. With offices conveniently located in Brooklyn, and Manhattan, the firm also represents clients in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Call (718) 996-5600 for a consultation today.