According to an alarming new report from the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), New York City’s construction workers have suffered their highest death rate in three years. In 2022, eleven workers lost their lives in construction accidents across the city, a grim increase from the fatalities reported in 2021 and 2020 (nine and eight, respectively). Without urgent changes, New York’s construction industry could sadly return to the statistics seen in 2015-2019, when 12-14 workers died on the job every year.
Falls remained a lethal threat in 2022, causing nine out of these eleven deaths. Incidents involving falls also resulted in almost 200 injuries, an uptick from those reported in 2021 and 2020. As the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) stresses, fall protection is crucial and mandatory on job sites where workers are performing their job duties at an elevated height, even when they are just 4-6 feet off of the ground. Safety measures include physical guardrails, toe-boards, arrest systems such as harnesses with secure tie-off points, and highly conscientious management.
The other two deaths were linked to the failure of mechanical equipment, specifically during excavation work. In Brooklyn, a 1-ton lifting jib separated from an excavator, falling onto a worker; in the Bronx, a worker was hit by an excavator bucket after the machine’s arm suddenly dropped. Often the result of load-bearing miscalculations or inadequate maintenance, these types of fatal struck-by accidents can, and should, be prevented at all costs. Struck-by-accidents and falling object accidents frequently lead to very severe injuries. Proper planning and communication, like well-thought-out, regular “toolbox meetings,” as well as appropriate equipment, like a construction helmet, can limit accidents and/or reduce the severity of an injury.
The report also described “near-misses,” situations in which workers survived life-threatening accidents. One of these cases drives home the importance of fall protection: A worker fell from a second-story platform, but thanks to a securely tied-off harness, that worker is still alive today.
The DOB points to several systemic factors regarding the overall rise in deaths and injuries. First, the construction industry has finally returned to its pre-pandemic pace, with the city issuing more permits than in 2021 or 2020. Developers also rushed to get their permits before the 2022 NYC Construction Codes went into effect in November 2022. Finally, the DOB issued fewer violations and stop work orders than in previous years as part of their plan to place a greater emphasis on safety education.
Government organizations have taken some measures to address this problem. In December 2022, Governor Hochul passed Carlos’ Law, a piece of legislation named after a 22-year-old construction worker named Carlos Moncayo, who tragically died after being buried in a 13-foot trench. The law raised penalties for an employee’s death or severe injury, allowing liable companies to be fined up to $500,000.
Less than a week later, the DOB launched a winter construction safety campaign to ramp up enforcement, implementing random visits across the 40,000 work sites in New York City. They surveyed 7,841 sites, issuing 4,481 violations and 1,277 stop-work orders. This came with fines of up to $25,000 for each violation.
According to its new report, the DOB aims to improve its general capacity for oversight by assigning more Construction Superintendents to fewer job sites. It has already made steps in this direction, cutting the number of sites per superintendent in half (from ten sites to five) in July 2022. With plans to train more staff, the goal is to designate a full-time superintendent for every single construction site by 2027.
While we hope that this standard will be achieved, the unfortunate reality is that accidents continue to happen every week in New York. If you or someone you love has been harmed through negligence on a construction site, our seasoned attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have an unparalleled record of helping plaintiffs obtain fair compensation.
Some of these results include:
- $15,000,000 settlement for the wife and children of a worker tragically crushed to death in a hoisting accident
- $12,000,000 settlement for a subway tunnel worker who fell down a shaft, sustaining permanent injuries
- $11,500,000 settlement for a worker struggling with lifelong wrist pain after being cut by a defective circular saw
- $11,000,000 settlement for a Brooklyn foreman who fell through an unsafe hole cover
- $10,875,000 jury verdict for a 35-year-old union worker who was pierced by a steel rebar after falling from a rooftop
- $10,500,000 settlement for the wrongful death of a worker killed while installing a water main in Staten Island
To speak with one of our skilled construction accident lawyers today, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form online. We serve New York and New Jersey.