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Increased Building Activity: A Death Sentence For Workers?

Workers in New York City are being injured in falls from ladders and scaffolding, they are being injured in crane accidents, and they face the prospect each day of not making it home in one piece. 

In what is becoming a sad - seemingly daily - reality, New York City construction workers continue to suffer horrific injuries and lose their lives as a result of negligence on construction sites. This can leave families without a loved one or facing the financial instability that comes from not having a source of income. 

It is becoming clear that the legislative and regulatory status quo will not make these tragedies a thing of the past. As workers continue to be injured and killed at an astounding rate, we must ask the question: is New York City's construction boom a death sentence for our workers? 

If it seems like you are seeing more stories in the local news about crane collapses, scaffold accidents, ladder falls, and crushed workers, there's a very good reason: there truly are more of them than ever before. 

According to the Department of Buildings (DOB), there were 189 accidents through May of this year that resulted in a staggering 196 injuries. That means well over 1 worker per day is injured on NYC construction sites. These incidents have driven the number of preventable injuries and deaths to an all-time high

This begs an important question: why do these tragedies continue to occur? The harsh truth is that the incentives for doing the right thing and protecting the safety of workers are not as strong as the incentive to cut corners, accelerate schedules, and maximize profits.

Money talks, and there is more money to be made by placing workers at risk than there is money to be lost to fines for safety violations. Unscrupulous property owners and builders will gladly risk a fine in the event of the occasional safety inspection in order to pocket the increased profits that come from accelerating construction timelines. 

This awful trend of injuries and deaths on our construction sites will not end until citizens, workers, contractors, building owners, city officials, and legislators alike remember that the safety and welfare of workers is the most important thing. 

We do not have to choose between halting construction and sending more workers to an early grave. By increasing inspections and enhancing the penalties for violations, we can continue to stretch NYC vertically while making sure workers go home to their loved ones at the end of an honest day's work.