Construction Fatalities in New York City
Late September, a serious construction accident took place at a building on New York City’s West 37th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Rescue workers from the FDNY responded to the scene of the accident, where a construction worker died after being trapped below a “large concrete slab,” according to a recent report from NBC New York.
Witnesses indicated that the concrete slab collapsed and fell from a corner of the building where excavation was under way. Those witnesses reportedly saw the victim’s upper torso and arms trapped below the concrete. The construction crew had been removing the soil underneath the foundation, preparing the site for future hotel construction.
Residents and employees in this area of Manhattan report that construction work on new residential buildings and hotels has become the norm in this part of the city. Indeed, one employee in the area said, “it’s nonstop building, big real estate is coming in and taking every little square inch and building as high as they can go. That’s all we hear in this neighborhood, constant construction.” Many worry that revamping the area will result in more construction accidents and construction fatalities.
Rick Chander, the Department of Buildings Commissioner, described the construction work as “a routine operation.” However, in addition to one fatal injury, another construction worker at the same site also suffered injuries and received treatment at a local hospital.
Statistics for Workplace and Construction Deaths in New York
Based on data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) identified nearly 40 construction workers who sustained fatal injuries in New York last year alone. The statistics surrounding deadly construction accidents show that many New Yorkers take risks with their lives and their health every time they go to work on a construction site. Indeed, many of the construction deaths that occur each year could have been prevented by the following actions:
- Employers following health and safety requirements; and
- Employers prioritizing workers’ safety over their bottom line.
- In its annual report last April, NYCOSH also conveyed the following facts about the New York construction industry:
- Construction is the deadliest industry in New York State, and a large percentage of those fatalities involve immigrant employees. In fact, 19 of the construction worker fatalities reported last year (or, half of all construction worker deaths) included immigrant workers.
- In about 66 percent of all construction safety inspections in New York during the years of 2010, 2011, and 2012, investigators found “at least one violation of an OSHA safety standard.”
- Older workers are more susceptible to fatal injuries than younger workers in New York. Employees aged 55 and up accounted for more than one-third of all occupational fatalities in 2012. An additional 20 percent of worker fatalities involved employees aged 65 and older.
- OSHA fines seem too low to incentivize employers to make their workplaces safer. To be sure, the average penalty issued for each fatality investigation in 2012 was only about $12,000.
New York needs more OSHA health and safety inspectors, as the state currently employs only 71 inspectors. According to NYCOSH, this number is far too low to allow for inspections of all constructions sites. Indeed, some in the industry estimate that it would take OSHA 103 years to inspect all New York worksites even once.
From construction workers to innocent bystanders- unsafe construction zones present a serious danger. If you have been injured as a result of an unsafe construction area, contact an experienced attorney to determine your rights.