By December 1st of 2018, New York City construction workers and supervisors will be required to have logged an additional 40 and 62 hours of safety training respectively to comply with the recently passed bill known as Local Law 196. Employers need to provide this training now more than ever, as new data reveals that NYC construction accidents are up 17% and have caused 8 fatalities in the first 7 months of 2018, double the amount of deaths over the same time frame in 2017.
These staggering injury and fatality numbers come amidst an unprecedented surge in construction projects around the city, with the Department of Buildings (DOB) issuing an all-time high 168,243 construction permits in 2017, according to the New York Post. A record 45,242 construction workers were employed to keep up with this construction boon, according to data from the Department of Labor.
The dangers that construction workers face when not provided sufficient safety training and equipment are not a new problem. Data from the US Bureau of Labor reveals that 37.5% of all work-related deaths in New York City in 2016 were construction workers. This shockingly high number reveals the urgency with which employers need to act to keep construction workers safe – but it hasn’t happened yet.
Common Hazards on Construction Sites
Gravity is the primary hazard facing construction workers, whether a worker is injured in a fall or by an object which falls on them. Through July 2018, Falls have caused 24.73% of construction accidents in New York City, the leading cause over that time. The second leading cause is Falling Objects, which have accounted for 10.28% of such accidents, according to data released by the city. These accidents have already claimed the lives of three construction workers this year.
This is not a new phenomenon. Data shows that Worker Fall and Material Fall have been the two leading causes of construction-related injuries and fatalities dating back to at least 2008. The new training regulations set out by Local Law 196 are designed to curb these sorts of accidents, requiring 8 hours of training dedicated purely to fall prevention.
But gravity-related hazards are only one piece of the puzzle-so far in 2018, 65% of construction accidents have been attributed to various other causes. This demonstrates how important it is for employers to ensure that on-site supervisors have met their new 62-hour training requirement, so that they can advise employees on how to avoid the many dangers inherent to construction work.
Statistics have a way of obscuring the personal tragedies that lie behind the numbers. To illustrate the dangers that construction workers face every day, here is how the 8 construction worker fatalities in New York City this year have occurred:
- Jan. 23: A worker falls to his death when the elevator he is working on malfunctions.
- Jan. 23: A construction worker falls from a window sill 6 stories in the air.
- Mar. 1: A worker falls six stories when ceiling joists collapse out from under him.
- Mar. 13: Edgar Pazmino tragically dies from a head injury in a forklift accident.
- Apr. 19: A worker is struck in the head by a falling hoist and dies.
- May 26: Harry Ramnauth is crushed to death by 3,000 lb. glass pane.
- July 12: Angel Ezpinoza is killed by a piece of falling scaffolding.
- July 16: A worker is electrocuted during an installation project.
The Legal Impact of Local Law 196
The primary legal protection New York construction workers have is Labor Law 240(1), often referred to as the “Scaffold Law.”
Simply put, the Scaffold Law requires employers and contractors to protect their employees from “gravity-related hazards” by providing them with appropriate safety equipment that will allow them to perform their work safely. Frequently, this law is triggered when a worker is provided an unsafe scaffold or ladder to worker on, and the shoddy equipment causes the worker to fall.
If a worker is injured by a ‘gravity-related hazard’ because he did not have access to the proper safety equipment, or the safety equipment they were provided failed to properly protect them, then they have the ability to bring a claim under the Scaffold Law. Every worker is entitled to perform their job in a safe environment.
The Hope Going Forward
The dangers that workers and face on construction sites are not new. When responsible employers and contractors make the effort to properly train and equip their employees with the tools, skills and knowledge they need to work safely and efficiently, accidents are prevented. When negligent employers, contractors and supervisors attempt to cut corners in order to save time or money, accidents are more likely to occur, and lives are lost.
Hopefully the new training regulations mandated under Local Law 196 can help to reduce unnecessary accidents, injuries and even fatalities in an industry which has been too dangerous for too long.