Disturbing numbers from a recent study show that the number of New York City construction accidents ballooned nearly 31% last year. Those accidents accounted for a whopping 46% increase in construction site injuries. Jobsite fatalities for that same time frame increased 142%, from 26 to 40.
This is sobering news for those who make their living building the city around us and even more so for their family members. Often construction accidents result in traumatic injuries caused by falls or falling objects. One of the most common types of injury is head trauma. Such trauma can leave workers permanently disabled, paralyzed, and completely dependent on others for lifelong care if it doesn’t kill them outright.
Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the Department of Buildings, told The Daily News that the City has “among the toughest construction regulations of any jurisdiction in the world,” yet even he couldn’t offer a complete explanation for the dramatic increase. He suggested that more falls from heights accidents and falling objects contributed to these shocking numbers.
However, some experts cite the decreasing number of jobsite inspections (down 40% within that same 2012 timeframe) for the increasing number of catastrophes. And there may be some truth in that. A survey of jobsite around New York recently uncovered a tremendous number of safety violations. According to a two-month long sweep by the Department of Buildings, nearly half of all the jobsite they inspected were in violation of various safety codes put in place to protect workers. 1/3 of those violations were rated as severe and 13% caused complete work stoppages.
Sclafani said that even as the total number of jobsite inspections has dropped, the agency “has conducted significant industry outreach to encourage workers and their employers to take proper safety precautions at all times.” However, the financial incentive for construction companies, contractors, and (to some extent) the City itself is often the cause for individuals to cut corners. Indeed, the City is now allowing licensed contractors to function as their own supervisor, a practice that may have contributed to a construction worker’s fatal fall late last year at a Brooklyn jobsite.
The financial penalties levied against these construction companies are laughable. One such case involving the death of a 69-year old man held a maximum penalty of just $9,800. The reality is that injured construction workers need a legal expert on their side. Either they or their loved ones should reach out to a New York construction accident lawyer immediately after sustaining any work-related injuries. Financial compensation from the responsible parties could make the difference between making it through a terrible time or struggling forever with the financial fallout.