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More Construction Work & Less Oversight Don't Add Up

The New York Daily News article cited below says it best: It's a recipe for disaster.

New York City is in the midst of a construction boom. New buildings are being erected at an unprecedented clip and residential and commercial construction is at an all-time high. Shockingly, however, as the city's construction projects continue to skyrocket the number of competent and available site safety inspectors has dropped considerably. Consequently, there has been a 50% increase in construction-related fatalities in the last 12 months. 18 workers have died during construction work over the last 12 months, up from 12 deaths the year before. This figure does not include a pedestrian who was also killed at a construction site in Manhattan. This is definitely not an example of doing more with less.

Site safety inspectors play an important role in making sure that construction worksites are safer everyone. Contractors are required to follow a series of safety rules in order to make sure that workers are afforded a safe place to perform their job duties. Too often, contractors in charge of safety cut corners to complete work in an expeditious manner while exposing hard-working women and men to unimaginable perils. Site safety inspectors enforce the rules and increase the likelihood that safety remains paramount at a job site. Even in optimal circumstances, when site safety inspectors are hovering over job site, general contractors, property owners and developers take shortcuts that are motivated by profit.

So, why are the number of site safety inspectors dwindling while construction continues to soar? The number of available inspectors has dropped more than 5% in the last several years, a dip the city can ill afford since work permits have increased by almost 20%. The downward trend has been prompted by mass retirements in the profession. Since the number of inspectors has gone down the demand for them has increased. Perceiving this, most site safety inspectors have begun to charge much higher rates for their services. The focus on cost-cutting has dissuaded many project managers from hiring competent site safety inspectors and it is also leading to many site safety inspectors jumping from job to job to reap the benefits of higher pay. Other inspectors are coming out of retirement for the increased pay but giving a substandard performance. So the number of inspectors is way down and apparently the number of competent site safety inspectors is even further depressed.

The problem remains the same. More needs to be done to convince contractors that endangering workers is not an acceptable practice. Site safety inspectors should be mandatory at every construction site. Their training and experience should be top-notch and their integrity beyond reproach. They should be given greater latitude to enforce safety rules and levy stringent fines when appropriate. Too many lives are lost and far too many families are destroyed because safety is not emphasized at construction sites like it should be. Local prosecutors should focus on bringing criminal charges when the circumstances warrant it. Timely and focused criminal prosecutions will deter many bad actors in the future. Lastly, worker safety laws like Labor Law §240 need to be preserved and strengthened so that workers and their families have a remedy when people in charge of safety at a job site scoff at the rules and regulations that they are required to adhere to. These are not just talking points - - these are people's lives.

Block O'Toole & Murphy is a law firm committed to fighting for construction workers and their families. They battle in the courtrooms and with opponents of worker safety laws across New York State to help injured workers. They have recovered more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for their clients. You may learn more about this law firm by reviewing the firm website at www.BlockOToole.com. Call them at 212.736.5300 for a free consultation at any time.

Source: NY Daily News