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NYC Construction Accidents Involving Pedestrians


Stories appear often on this blog about construction accidents and pedestrian accidents. But what about stories where these two types of accidents are combined? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that at least one pedestrian each month suffers injury because of falling debris, equipment and materials.

According to the Wall Street Journal story, pedestrians are hurt by glass, bricks, planks, hammers and other items falling onto the sidewalk from buildings under construction, repair or demolition. Last fall, a piece of metal fell 10 stories onto the sidewalk in Times Square, injuring two people. Last spring, a saw blade flying through the air injured a pedestrian on Ninth Avenue. But those are only two incidents. According to the WSJ, there were 18 such incidents last year.

This is the largest number of this type of accident since 2008, when 22 people were hurt. And pedestrians were not the only people injured in these types of accidents; drivers of vehicles either parked or in traffic were also hurt.

Another common version of this type of construction accident is the collapsing fence. A pedestrian was killed earlier this year when a fence blew off its moorings and struck a young woman. It turns out that this was not a freak accident. Fences have injured 23 people in 16 incidents in the years covered by the report, 2008-2014.

Three children were injured in incidents like these, including one hit by a falling hammer while on the sidewalk at 95th Street and Riverside Drive in 2011.

And statistics don’t really cover incidents in which no one was injured. This March, a Plexiglas sheet fell to the sidewalk from the 22nd floor of a 1,000 foot tower under construction on West 57th Street. This represents the third time such events have occurred at this site in the last twelve months. No one has been hurt, but given the frequency with which this happens, it’s probably only a matter of time.

The WSJ report shows that between 2008 and 2014, the following incidents occurred:

  • Falling tools and materials; 61 people injured, including three hurt when wet concrete poured down from above
  • Falling glass: 12 people injured in nine incidents
  • Blowing fences and construction sheds: 47 people were injured in 32 incidents

The city’s building code was revised in 2014 to require that construction fences be built to withstand 80 mph winds. The sheet of plywood fencing that killed the woman in March as she was walking on West 12th Street had been installed in 2012, prior to the enactment of the new requirements.