A recent New York Times article culminated two years of investigations into construction site accidents calling many of them “completely avoidable.” Where the rate of building increased throughout the city by 11% in the last fiscal year, the rate of accidents in the industry had risen 52%. The disproportionality is astounding and led the Times to take a closer look at the reasons behind it.
The investigation uncovered construction companies repeatedly violating the same safety regulations despite safety reports issued and lawsuits commenced. Citing the findings of a federal investigation, the Times referred to most of the injuries and fatalities as being “completely avoidable.”
Many of the deaths and injuries that occurred on New York City construction sites involved undocumented immigrants- many of whom may have been fearful to speak up regarding hazardous conditions due to their legal status. Several tragic cases were addressed in the article, including one that involved an immigrant who fell 140 feet to his death, which may have been preventable had he worn a safety harness. An investigation into the accident found that the construction company had not installed guardrails at the site, nor was the provided elevated platform up to OSHA code. In addition, the investigators found that the worker had a fake safety training certificate. The construction company was fined $42,000 by the safety administration.
Midtown construction accidents made up approximately one quarter of the total number of accidents in the last two years. Although the Midtown accidents were widely publicized in the media, most of the accidents that occurred throughout the five boroughs took place on smaller sites involving non-union workers who did not receive proper training.
The Times noted several other avoidable tragedies that occurred on construction sites over the last two years including:
· An immigrant worker who fell 14 feet to his death due to lack of guardrails and adequate supervision
· An Ecuadorian immigrant who fell from a ladder, having worked for a construction company that valued speed over safety
· A worker in Brooklyn who fell through a floor opening due to slippery surfaces that went ignored
· A worker who died after falling on a site that did not provide harnesses, extension ladders, or repair unsafe scaffolding.
According to a report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, many construction companies do not take violations seriously because of the low number of OSHA inspectors and low penalties. However, agencies throughout the City have begun to hold violators accountable. For example, the Manhattan DA’s Office filed manslaughter and other charges against two construction companies and managers after a young worker was crushed to death last August. The de Blasio administration is also taking measures to improve safety on construction sites by employing 100 additional building inspectors, using new data tools, and developing a code of conduct to be followed by the industry. Additionally, the New York City Investigations Department continues the random inspections that it began in 2012 to combat corruption in the industry.
If you have been involved in a construction accident, contact a personal injury attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies and fight for the compensation you deserve. The attorneys at Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss handle construction accident cases throughout the five boroughs of New York including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx; both Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island; and in New Jersey and Connecticut. Call Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP at 212-571-7171.