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Increase in NYC Construction Fatalities Prompts Proposal of New Laws

The rash increase in serious construction accidents and the publicity associated with these accidents has triggered a reaction from New York City's City Council. It is expected that City Council members will introduce a comprehensive package of proposed laws next week to make construction sites safer. The proposal includes an anticipated 18 different new laws that will significantly impact the construction industry. The response to the proposed legislation has been revealing.

The proposals would include greater scrutiny on the use of cranes within the 5 boroughs. Crane operation and the issuing of licenses to operate a crane would be more carefully monitored. The legislation also includes an increase in supervision at construction sites that have been prone to accidents. Along the same lines, the proposal would tag the egregious actors in the industry with more severe penalties when they fail to comply with fundamental safety laws. The principle here is: If you don't follow fundamental and fair safety regulations than we are going to hold you responsible for your actions.

Who is leading the charge on this front? It appears that Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Jumaane Williams, the char of the Housing and Buildings Committee, have been instrumental in implementing these new safety proposals. The proposed package of laws is called the Construction Safety Act. The idea behind the laws is to make sure construction work is safer for the workers while also providing greater accountability for employers, general contractors, property owners and developers who flaunt construction safety laws. The goal, admirably, is to prevent accidents and make sure those people and entities who make accidents more likely are punished.

There have been 31 construction deaths in New York City over the last 2 years. Councilman Williams points out that "there is no other industry where workers die at such an alarming rate without significant preventative recourse." Williams is spot on here. The uproar would be deafening if 31 police officers or firemen were killed in a two-year period while doing nothing more than their job. Somehow, the empathy for hard-working construction workers is elusive. The reasons for that are confounding. Williams says he is focused on introducing legislation that will reduce the number of construction site falls, the most frequent cause of fatalities for workers. Williams hopes that the laws will help introduce an "atmosphere of safety" within the industry. This is the real challenge, creating and fostering an environment where safety is embraced by everyone.

Interestingly, there appears to be some pushback from Mayor de Blasio. Some argue that his reluctance is based on an ongoing volatile dialogue with construction unions. Others suggest that the safety measures would slow down his ambitious housing development plans. Perhaps they are both related. Neither, whether you look at them independently or jointly, is a compelling reason to stand in the way of protecting the lives of New York City's construction workers. Profits cannot be placed in front of people and neither should politics.

The City continues to experience a massive explosion in construction work. It is the right thing to do for members of the City Council to take steps to enact laws that make the people responsible for doing the construction work safer. It is equally important to make sure chronic violators of construction site safety laws are held accountable. The lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy will be carefully monitoring the politicians who will be supporting this important safety legislation.

Block O'Toole & Murphy is a law firm that prides itself on fighting for construction workers and their families. You may contact them for a free consultation at any time at 212.736.5300.

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