The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are frequently asked about the causes of New York construction accidents. Generally, the perception is that the accidents are confined to smaller, non-union jobs. The bigger companies, the theory goes, are not the culprits when it comes to taking shortcuts with worker safety. It is the smaller outfits, working on less profitable jobs, that exploit workers and ignore safety, people think.
People hesitate when we tell them that the biggest jobs often result in the worst safety violations. The New York Daily News article cited below debunks the myth that worker safety is only a smaller job/non-union concern. The violations given to Turner Construction – – one of the biggest contractors in the entire state – – during their work on the massive Madison Square Garden renovation is the best evidence that worker safety is a real problem for everyone.
Turner Construction was cited for an unbelievable 70 safety violations in connection with the ongoing renovation work at Madison Square Garden (MSG), according to the New York Daily News.
The citations were issued by the New York City Department of Buildings, and represent the most safety infractions at any construction site citywide, according to records obtained by the Daily News. The fines against Turner Construction totaled a staggering $94,600. Overall in 2012, Turner was cited with a total of 90 safety violations, for its MSG site as well as eight other sites, more than any other builder in the City.
At MSG, the violations included failure to use safety equipment such as guardrails or toe boards to protect workers from steep falls. Construction worker falls are the most common and most dangerous construction accidents. In fact, falls are the number one cause of construction-worker fatalities, making up one-third of the total on-the-job injury deaths in the industry. Falls are also one of the most preventable of construction accidents, and safety devices such as proper fall protection are required by law to be at, and be used at, construction sites.
Citations at MSG were also issued for illegal smoking at the site. Although perhaps not as obvious a risk as fall protection related violations, illegal smoking is also a serious safety issue. Such smoking was blamed for the death of two firefighters in a 2007 seven-alarm fire at the abandoned Deutsche Bank Building.
Turner Construction executives, in defense of the massive fines, point out that the MSG renovation was one of the biggest projects in the City, under more scrutiny than other projects. The MSG renovation was also a participant in the City’s new Major Projects Program, which creates increased oversight and communication between general contractors on major construction projects and the Department of Buildings.
But the Major Projects Program’s aim is not to increase scrutiny for the purpose of issuing more citations; the goal is to improve safety at construction sites. And, overall, contractors participating in the Program have had 49 percent fewer violations compared to similar projects outside the program, according to Buildings Department spokeswoman Kelly Magee. If the increased scrutiny has not helped Turner Construction decrease its violations on the MSG renovation, perhaps it is helping to swiftly remedy the violations and make the site safer to avoid accidents. “Through this open and cooperative process, hazards were avoided and safety was increased,” Turner spokesman Christopher McFadden said.
It is obvious that despite the great number of construction site safety laws, regulations and programs, dangers persist at construction sites. As a result, accidents occur with devastating frequency.
Block O’Toole & Murphy fights to protect the rights of those injured, or tragically killed, in construction accidents. We are committed to helping injured construction workers and their families during a very difficult time. The construction accident attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy, LLP have unparalleled experience and expertise – – including more than $700,000,000 in verdicts and settlements – – in construction accident law and are available for a free consultation at 212-736-5300. You can also learn more about the firm by visiting the firm’s website at blockotoole.com.