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Weighing in on NYC Construction Safety Week

For now the fifth year in a row, New York City is holding its annual Construction Safety Week, a week-long series of free educational seminars and outreach events designed to increase worker awareness of safe construction practices. Seminars will again be offered in topics to help insure that construction work involving scaffolds, cranes, excavations and demolitions are done with a sharper focus on worker safety. There will also be continued programs to advance the role of Site Safety Coordinators. The continued scrutiny of the construction industry as a whole is both necessary and invaluable.

Thousands of construction related accidents occur yearly in New York City. Sometimes construction accidents occur that were not preventable. However, too often they are entirely avoidable and lives are destroyed because of them. Workers are frequently placed in harm’s way so that projects are completed in an expedited manner. Almost always, the owners, contractors and supervisors then blame that same worker for an accident that ensues. “It is a damned if you do; damned if you don’t situation for any worker. Lose your job if you don’t do it their way, the unsafe way; get blamed for it even if you get hurt doing it their way,” says noted construction accident attorney Stephen J. Murphy of the law firm Block O’Toole & Murphy.
The Buildings Commission has joined forces with the Immigrant Affairs Commission to continue the promotion of the citywide worker safety campaign to encourage construction workers to properly wear their safety devices at all times while working at a construction site. Thousands of posters, banners and brochures – in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Hindi and Urdu – will be distributed throughout the City this week, including high-rise construction sites, designated worker centers, union halls, community centers, telephone kiosks, and the Buildings Department’s five borough offices.

Labor Law Committee member and construction accident legal expert David L. Scher applauds the efforts but cautions people that, “it must be a two-way street. Educating the worker about the benefits of safety only works if everyone in the industry also heeds the message. The workers need to be provided adequate safety devices and a safe work environment for this cooperative effort to be successful in reducing workplace injuries.” Mr. Scher continues to point out that, “in 2008 alone, 84 workers were injured on a construction site as a result of a fall, a 121% increase compared to the previous year – – and that only counts the accidents that were reported.” Of those injuries, more than half were due to human error. Eight of 19 construction-related deaths in 2008 were the result of a worker falling.

“Construction is a dangerous business and workers must take every precaution to protect themselves and their families from the risks of the job. If they don’t, the consequences can be catastrophic. Both workers and the people that reap the profits of their work need to remember this,” reminded Stephen J. Murphy. Block O’Toole & Murphy encourages New Yorkers to call 3-1-1 to report non-compliant conditions or 9-1-1 to report emergencies at construction sites.

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience litigating construction and work related accidents. Our lawyers have represented union and non-union workers. We have represented laborers, electricians, carpenters, sheet metal workers, plumbers, iron workers and steamfitters. We have also represented documented and undocumented workers. Our trial attorneys work hand in hand with some of the finest Workers Compensation and Disability lawyers in the State. If you have been injured in a construction or work related accident, please contact Block O’Toole & Murphy for a free consultation.