It has been widely publicized in the media that the rate of death and injury at construction sites has risen dramatically over the last two years. A recent New York Times expose has shed light on the matter after two years of investigations. According to the Times, although the rate of building has increased throughout the city by 11% in the last fiscal year, the 52% increase in construction accident rate is disproportionate to the new construction.
The investigation also uncovered that many construction companies repeated the same violations despite safety reports issued and lawsuits. The New York Times had investigated many construction site accidents over the course of two years and concurred with the finding of one federal investigation, determining that many of the injuries and fatalities were “completely avoidable.”
A majority of the deaths and injuries that took place on the New York City construction sites involved undocumented immigrants. In many cases, such workers may be fearful to speak up regarding hazards at the workplace because of their legal status. The Times article covered one recent tragedy concerning an immigrant who was not wearing a safety harness and fell 140 feet to his death. A subsequent investigation found that guardrails had not been installed at the site, and the elevated platform did not meet the wall as required. The investigators also found that the worker who died had a fraudulent safety training certificate. The safety administration fined the construction company $42,000 for its violations.
Although the accidents that occurred at Midtown construction sites were very widely publicized in the last two years, they only make up approximately 25% of total construction accidents during that time frame. Most of the accidents that took place throughout the five boroughs occurred on smaller sites and involved non-union workers who were not trained adequately, if at all.
Other incidents the Times cited to that occurred in the last two years included an immigrant worker who died after falling 14 feet as a result of lack of guardrails and proper supervision; an Ecuadorian immigrant who worked for a construction company that valued speed over safety in finishing projects who died after falling from a ladder; a worker who died after falling through a floor opening due to slippery winter conditions; and a worker who died as a result of not wearing a safety harness on a site that did not provide extension ladders or repair unsafe scaffolding.
Due to the low fines and few OSHA inspectors, many construction companies choose to not take safety violations seriously, according to a report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. In an effort to improve safety on construction sites, several agencies in New York are addressing the issue. For example, the Manhattan DA’s Office filed manslaughter and other charges against two companies and the managers after a worker was crushed to death last August. Additionally, the de Blasio administration is taking measures to implement 100 additional building inspectors, use new data tools and develop a code of conduct for the construction industry. The New York City Investigation Department also continues the random inspections that it began in 2012 in an effort to combat construction industry corruption.
Construction site accidents can result in severe injury, or even death. If you have been involved in a construction site accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you of your legal rights. Call Georgaklis & Mallas PLLC at (718) 238-2400 or (212) 779-2400